Pre-eclampsiaKim Kardashian and Kanye West’s daughter was delivered more than a month before her initial birth date. Some publications, including People Magazine, are speculating that Kardashian was stricken with pre-eclampsia, a life-threatening disorder that attacks women after their 20th week of gestation.

The reality television starlet and her representatives haven’t confirmed or denied the media reports, but the added attention shines a crucial spotlight on the serious condition.

The Pre-eclampsia Foundation, an organization designed to offer support and information to the one in 12 women that will be inflicted with the condition, describes pre-eclampsia as “a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period and affects both the mother and the unborn baby.”

Affecting at least 5-to-8 percent of all pregnancies, it is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision are important symptoms; however, some women with rapidly advancing disease report few symptoms.

Typically, preeclampsia occurs after 20 weeks gestation (in the late 2nd or 3rd trimesters or middle to late pregnancy) and up to six weeks postpartum, though in rare cases it can occur earlier than 20 weeks. Proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage preeclampsia. Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH) and toxemia are outdated terms for preeclampsia. HELLP syndrome and eclampsia (seizures) are other variants of preeclampsia.

Globally, preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death. By conservative estimates, these disorders are responsible for 76,000 maternal and 500,000 infant deaths each year.

Kardashian and her daughter’s life were in danger because of the rapid succession of the disorder. Pre-eclampsia progresses quickly and can cause irreversible damage if it’s not addressed.

Dr. Natalie K. Stevens, a physician at Upper East Side Women’s Health in New York City, told the New York Daily News “the condition can cause complications for other organs.”

Some women experience minimal symptoms, but Kardashian’s alleged bout with pre-eclampsia was evident. One of the most notable signs of the disorder is swelling. The “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” star tweeted photos of her enlarged ankles, lips and feet in the weeks leading up to the birth of her first child. It was also evident in photos circulating of Kardashian running through Los Angeles in painful heels with swollen skin spilling out of the straps.

There are numerous causes for pre-eclampsia, but one of the most significant is the immune system rejecting the placenta. Some women are more at risk for developing the illness, according to the Pre-eclampsia Foundation. Risk factors include having multiple pregnancies, delivering a child in your early teens or being pregnant for the first time.

Pre-eclampsia is a treatable disorder. The Pre-eclampsia Foundation offers these essential tips for preserving the health of the mother and child when the illness strikes:

A good prenatal diet full of vitamins, minerals and the basic food groups are important for any pregnancy, as is reducing consumption of processed foods, refined sugars and caffeine. Eliminating alcohol and any medication not prescribed by a physician is essential. Report all medications prescribed by other doctors to your prenatal care provider so that these products can be checked regarding their safe use during pregnancy. Speak with your health care professional before taking any nutritional supplement – herbal or otherwise.

The Mayo Clinic declares delivering the child is the only real cure for pre-eclampsia, so the birth of Kardashian’s five-pound daughter ahead of schedule protected her and the child from further complications.

Pre-eclampsia can strike any expectant mother. Being prepared and conversing with an obstetrician about the possibilities is the first step toward delivering a healthy child.

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