Children's Shelter educates moms-to-be about preeclampsia

Families in crisis at higher risk, nurse supervisor says

SAN ANTONIO – Any pregnancy is at risk of a dangerous complication involving high blood pressure, but Angela Montez said her clients are among the most at risk for preeclampsia. 

WEB EXTRA: What exactly is preeclampsia?

Montez supervises the Nurse-Family Partnership program at the Children's Shelter of San Antonio, which deals with families in crisis. 

Montez said many of the women are first-time mothers, often teenagers, or women over 40 who've been exposed to drug use or who've had adverse experiences ranging from incarceration to physical, emotional or sexual abuse. 

She said diet, genetics, obesity, diabetes and even financial pressures contribute to chronic hypertension. 

Yet, Montez said many don't understand the risk when they tell her, "Everybody in my family has high blood pressure. I don't see what the big deal is. Everybody is on high blood pressure medication." 

Montez said that's why those clients undergo screening as soon as possible. 

If a pregnant client is at risk, Montez said, "We are definitely doing extra monitoring with them." 

She said her nurses also teach them what preeclampsia and high blood pressure are and the consequences to themselves and their babies. 

Montez said they're also referred to physicians for regular prenatal care. 

"We see some of the subtle early signs with every little visit," said Dr. Keisha Loftin, an OB-GYN, stressing the necessity of prenatal care. 

She said high blood pressure restricts the flow of blood, resulting in stroke, seizures, organ damage, premature labor, preterm births, and other potentially deadly conditions. 

Learn more about low-dose aspirin use during pregnancy here.

If symptoms such as blurry vision or swelling are severe enough, Loftin said those mothers will be hospitalized and, if necessary, "deliver the baby prematurely for the sake of the mother's life." 

But to reduce the risk of preeclampsia developing, Montez and Loftin said low-dose baby aspirin has been found to be effective.

But, they caution mothers-to-be about taking baby aspirin without a doctor's supervision because even low-dose aspirin can cause bleeding problems. 

"No self-diagnosis. No self-treatment," Loftin said. "Really, it's best for patients to trust their medical provider to give them the dose recommended for them."

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