In an effort to increase public awareness and research funding, ACOG is pleased to support the Preeclampsia Foundation’s petition to Congress to have the month of May officially designated as national “Preeclampsia Awareness Month.” Please take a moment to show your support by signing the petition today—the deadline is December 31, 2011.
The main focus of my ACOG presidential initiative is something that has consumed my professional career for more than 30 years: preeclampsia and hypertensive disorders during pregnancy. Over the past two decades, preeclampsia in particular has been a growing problem in the US, and it is a leading cause of maternal and infant death and illness. Yet despite decades of research, we still don’t know what causes it or how to prevent it.
What we do know is that certain women are at increased risk of developing preeclampsia, including women who are obese, carrying two or more babies, pregnant for the first time, older than 35 years, African American, or who have diabetes, lupus, or kidney disease, among a few factors.
Preeclampsia is high blood pressure that occurs only during pregnancy and usually starts sometime after the 20th week of gestation. Some of the warning signs include headaches, vision problems, rapid weight gain, and upper abdominal pain. Hypertensive disorders during pregnancy, including preeclampsia, often require very preterm delivery to protect the health of both mothers and infants and are a major contributor to the high prematurity rate.
Even though preeclampsia causes so many preterm births and related deaths, it is among the most poorly understood, understudied, and underfunded conditions compared with other diseases. More research is critically needed so that we can develop evidence-based guidelines for prevention and treatment.