What is Pre-Eclampsia?

couple_talking_on_couchA diagnosis of preeclampsia can be terrifying. The condition carries with it a stigma of serious danger, and for good reason. If left untreated preeclampsia can progress to eclampsia, a condition which can cause serious harm to a woman and the child she is carrying. In some severe cases it can even cause death.

Preeclampsia, also called toxemia, and eclampsia is a condition believed to be caused by a placenta that is not functioning properly. While doctors suspect that factors including high body fat, poor nutrition, or poor blood flow to the uterus can lead to onset of the condition, an exact cause is unknown. Genetics are also thought to play a role. Additionally, while there are treatment options, the condition is incurable without giving birth.

Preeclampsia occurs most frequently in the second half of pregnancy, most often in the late second or third trimester. The condition is marked with high blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine. Often the pregnant woman will also have noticeably swollen hands and feet, blurry vison and intense headaches preceding diagnosis. Preeclampsia is a condition that is often caught and diagnosed before resulting in eclampsia, however, if the patient presents with seizures as well as with all the normal symptoms of preeclampsia she is considered to have eclampsia at diagnosis.

Once diagnosed, your doctor will want to discuss how the baby is managing inside of the womb in order to get an idea on how soon delivery will need to occur. If your baby is well developed and your surrogate is a least 37 weeks along, an immediate induction or caesarian section may be ordered.

In the even that your surrogate is not far enough along to ensure a successful delivery, the doctor may prescribe bed rest, likely at the hospital, for the duration of the pregnancy. During that time, your surrogate will be hooked to a fetal heart monitor to closely monitor baby’s condition. Your surrogate will likely also be given steroids to help develop your baby’s lungs more quickly in preparation for an early delivery. The surrogate will also likely receive IV medications like Magnesium or Hydralazine to help lower blood pressure and prevent seizures.

Preeclampsia symptoms should subside within six weeks of giving birth for the surrogate. In most cases, with early diagnosis, there will be minor or no impact on the health of your newborn.



Dr. Kim Bergman

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 26 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for Intended Parents, Surrogates and Donors. She is the co-owner of Fertility Counseling Services and Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national Emeritus board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman’s is the author of the upcoming book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. Her two daughters are in college.