Gestosis, the “pregnancy poisoning”

A gestosis, formerly known as pregnancy poisoning, is when you suffer from high blood pressure in combination with heavy protein excretion in the urine and edema in the arms and legs. Unfortunately, a gestosis can endanger your health and that of your child. Read more about gestosis here, in which forms it can occur and learn how it is recognized and treated today.

No clear terminology around the “gestosis”

Gestosis is a disease that only occurs during pregnancy. It describes all clinical pictures that describe the pregnancy-related occurrence of high blood pressure. It used to be called “pregnancy poisoning” because doctors believed that a toxin was being produced in the pregnant woman’s body that was causing the symptoms. Although we still don’t know 100% where this disease comes from, we are certain that it is not poisonous. The most common description today is “gestosis”. However, many medical professionals also speak of a “hypertensive illness of pregnancy” (HES), “pregnancy-induced hypertension” (SIH) or “pregnancy-induced hypertension”.

Simple gestosis: pregnancy hypertension

If a woman has high blood pressure of more than 140 mm hG after the 20th week of pregnancy, this is referred to as gestational hypertension. As it turned out in our MomaSquad survey, this affects around eight percent of pregnant women and does not have to be a cause for concern. Because if only high blood pressure remains as a symptom, it can be easily treated and you can wait for the normal course of the pregnancy. Normally, pregnancy hypertension goes away on its own no later than six weeks after the birth, and blood pressure returns to normal.

1. The EPH gestosis (also called preeclampsia)

The so-called EPH gestosis ( preeclampsia ) is unfortunately one of the most common complications during pregnancy. It is responsible for half of all premature births. This form of gestosis then not only includes the symptom of high blood pressure alone, but is also reflected in a number of other symptoms. The three most important symptoms of this clinical picture are named with the initials E, P and H:

  • E (Edema): Occurrence of edema (water retention in the tissue)
  • P (proteinuria): protein in the urine of more than 300 mg in 24 hours
  • H (Hypertension): High blood pressure greater than 140 mmHg

It is now accepted that water retention is not a mandatory symptom of preeclampsia. But high blood pressure and increased protein excretion in the urine.

2. Eclampsia

Eclampsia is a severe form of preeclampsia that causes seizures. In severe cases, the placenta can detach. Both can seriously endanger the health of mother and child and must be treated immediately. It is possible that before this, symptoms of EPH gestosis will develop. Eclampsia can also be announced by headaches or flickering eyes. The spasms can also lead to acute renal failure, placental insufficiency, cerebral edema, thrombosis and bleeding. If the situation is life-threatening for mother or child, an earlier delivery is often necessary. If the pregnancy is not yet sufficiently advanced, the administration of cortisone is used to promote the maturation of the child’s lungs and thus to enable delivery in an emergency.

3. The Hellp Syndrome

Hellp syndrome is the most severe complication of the gestosis, which only occurs in 0.3 percent of pregnant women. It manifests itself in severe upper abdominal pain caused by a decrease in liver function. The blood coagulation values ​​deteriorate, the liver values ​​increase. This form of gestosis is particularly treacherous because it can reach serious levels within a few hours.

Risk groups for a gestosis

Risk groups for gestosis are very young or older primiparous, overweight, multiple pregnancies and high blood pressure patients. They should be observed during preventive medical check-ups, especially for abnormalities. But this disease can also affect women without these prerequisites.

The best way to prevent a gestosis: check-ups

Always try to go to your check-ups. They offer the best guarantee that a possible gestosis will be diagnosed and treated in good time. Your doctor will measure your blood pressure and take a urine sample during every check-up. With the optional Doppler/duplex sonography, your doctor can also examine the blood vessels of your placenta and thus detect changes in the structures and thus the first signs of preeclamsia in good time. However, this ultrasound is not covered by health insurance in all cases. If you want to be sure that you don’t miss any pensions, then print out your own pension plan .

Prevent gestosis and relieve symptoms

Since the causes of the gestosis have not yet been researched, doctors and midwives can only recommend measures that primarily alleviate the symptoms of a gestosis. The following things are then advisable:

  • Eat a balanced, protein-rich diet with enough salt. Recommendations such as avoiding salt or rice and potato days are outdated. They can even make the symptoms worse.
  • Move regularly. Swimming, walking and gymnastics (especially vein gymnastics) are particularly helpful in relieving the symptoms.
  • At the same time, make sure you have inner peace (no stress). Take enough breaks and put your feet up. If an acute gestosis has already been detected, you should no longer work. If in doubt, your doctor will even prescribe bed rest for you.
  • The doctor can also prescribe you antihypertensive medication.

The causes of the gestosis are largely unknown

The proposed measures address the symptoms of a gestosis. The causes of a gestosis are still largely unknown. However, science pursues some research directions. Maybe in a few years more targeted prevention and treatment will be possible. There are the following hypotheses:

  • American scientists are currently pursuing the hypothesis that the gestosis is caused by a malfunction of the placenta. Hereditary and immunological factors lead to poor adaptation of the placenta blood vessels. There are disruptions in the circulation between mother and child. These disorders in turn cause high blood pressure and an undersupply of the child.
  • European researchers tend to assume that it is a problem with the inner lining of the blood vessels, which would then have the same consequences as described in the first thesis. However, what could be causing these problems is still unclear.
  • A third direction is currently investigating improper nutrition as a possible core cause of gestosis. It could lead to thickening of the blood and thus cause the symptoms.
  • A lack of adaptation of the pregnant woman’s organism to the changing uterus is also currently being pursued as a theory. If the blood volume is increased too little, it could mean that the blood circulation cannot be maintained as it is. Water retention is the result. And the blood vessels narrow.

Even if you are diagnosed with gestosis, there is no reason to worry at first. Get intensive medical care and deal with a possible caesarean section, because unfortunately it could be an emergency measure if the clinical picture worsens. After the birth, the symptoms of the gestosis disappear again and even if you become pregnant again, there is no increased risk that you will be affected again.

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