Exercise may protect babies from the harmful effects of preeclampsia & high blood pressure, both of which can cause birth injuries if mismanaged
Preeclampsia and high blood pressure during pregnancy are very serious conditions that, if mismanaged, can cause a baby to have brain damage and birth injuries such as cerebral palsy. High blood pressure (hypertension) can harm the mother’s kidneys and other organs, and it can cause premature birth and low birth weight. Preeclampsia is a more severe form of hypertension, affecting approximately 14% of all pregnant women. Preeclampsia causes dysfunction in the placenta’s blood vessels, thereby causing the unborn baby to receive less oxygen and nutrients. High blood pressure and preeclampsia increase a baby’s risk of having the following conditions:
- Poor fetal growth
- Intrauterine (fetal) growth restriction (IUGR/FGR)
- Placental abruption
- Premature birth
Preeclampsia poses the additional risks of the mother having kidney failure, a hypertensive crisis, HELLP syndrome, and eclampsia. These conditions are life-threatening for the baby.
If preeclampsia and hypertension are not properly managed, the baby is at risk of having birth injuries such as the following:
- Hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). HIE usually involves damage to the basal ganglia and watershed regions of the brain, but sometimes also includes periventricular leukomalacia (PVL).
- Neonatal encephalopathy
- Permanent brain damage
- Seizure disorders
- Cerebral palsy (CP)
- Intellectual disabilities
- Developmental delays
When a mother has hypertension or preeclampsia, her pregnancy is considered high-risk. This means her obstetrician must monitor her very closely and perform more frequent prenatal testing. The mother should also be referred to a maternal-fetal specialist. A planned, early delivery is often indicated in order to prevent the baby from having birth injuries caused by a sub-optimal intrauterine environment and / or a spontaneous pre-term birth. The mother’s physicians must thoroughly counsel her regarding diet, medication and lifestyle changes that can minimize or prevent the detrimental effects of hypertension and preeclampsia.
Michigan Preeclampsia Attorneys and Birth Injury Lawyers Discuss How Exercise May Minimize the Effects of Preeclampsia
Research shows that exercise helps reduce the risks associated with hypertension and preeclampsia. Exercise has a protective effect and helps prevent preeclampsia. A key protective mechanism of exercise during the early stages of pregnancy is that it stimulates the expression of two proteins that play a role in blood vessel health.
Physical activity is recommended during pregnancy because it is beneficial to the health of the mother and baby. It is considered safe for both, and in fact, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women engage in moderate intensity exercise every day or at least 3 times a week, even for women who previously did not exercise. Exercise provides cardiovascular conditioning and it lowers blood pressure. It protects against preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders by decreasing oxidative stress, stimulating vascularity and placental growth, and preventing dysfunction in the walls of blood vessels. Indeed, regular exercise helps fetal growth and it may reduce the effects of placental insufficiency.
Of course, physical activity is only one component of the health of a pregnant woman with hypertension or preeclampsia. As soon as a mother is diagnosed with hypertension or preeclampsia, she and the baby must be monitored very closely so that delivery can occur if the baby has nonreassuring tests or the mother’s condition becomes severe. Hospitalization is the best way to ensure close monitoring, testing and quick delivery, and this is often necessary when a mother has severe hypertension or preeclampsia. A hospital stay is also useful because close monitoring can help the physician establish the severity and rate of disease progression.
If the mother chooses outpatient monitoring, she must receive maternal and fetal evaluations every 1 – 3 days and have quick access to medical care and a labor and delivery unit. These mothers should be aware of the signs and symptoms of major blood pressure changes and preeclampsia and they should monitor the baby’s movements every day. Mothers should be told to call their physicians immediately if they develop severe or persistent headaches, visual changes, shortness of breath, or have pain in the upper abdomen.
In some cases, hypertension should be treated with anti-hypertensive medications. Typically, the risks to the unborn baby outweigh the benefits for mild to moderate hypertension. On the other hand, severe hypertension must be treated. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg; the top number is the systolic blood pressure and the bottom number is the diastolic pressure. Medication should be given to mothers whose systolic pressure is 150 or higher or whose diastolic pressure is 100 or higher. Treatment should be given at a lower threshold to younger mothers whose blood pressure is lower or who had a low baseline blood pressure. Mothers who have symptoms that may be caused by elevated blood pressure (headaches, visual disturbances, chest discomfort) should also be treated. For mothers who have hyptertension or preeclampsia, the target blood pressure is 140 – 150 systolic and 90 – 100 diastolic. If the mother has end-organ damage, the target is 140/90 or as low as 120/80.
Due to the risks associated with hypertension and preeclampsia, scheduled, early delivery of the baby is usually required. The timing is based on the severity of the hypertension / preeclampsia, how well-controlled the mother’s blood pressure is, whether other complicating conditions are present (e.g., placental abruption), and the gestational age of the baby. Preeclampsia at 37 weeks gestational age or later requires delivery. If there is any evidence of serious maternal end-organ dysfunction or nonreassuring tests of the baby’s well-being, the baby is delivered, regardless of gestational age. For mothers with non-severe preeclampsia, expectant management is reasonable, but delivery must occur as soon as the mother develops signs or symptoms of severe preeclampsia / eclampsia (or at 37 weeks if the disease does not progress to the severe stage).
Award-Winning Birth Injury Lawyers Helping Victims of Medical Malpractice
If you are seeking the help of a lawyer, it is very important to choose a lawyer and firm that focus solely on birth injury cases. Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers is a national birth injury law firm that has been helping children with birth injuries for almost 3 decades.
Birth Injury lawyer Jesse Reiter, president of ABC Law Centers, has been focusing solely on birth injury cases for over 28 years, and most of his cases involve hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and cerebral palsy. Partners Jesse Reiter and Rebecca Walsh are currently recognized as being two of the best medical malpractice lawyers in America by U.S. News and World Report 2015, which also recognized ABC Law Centers as being one of the best medical malpractice law firms in the nation. The lawyers at ABC Law Centers have won numerous awards for their advocacy of children and are members of the Birth Trauma Litigation Group (BTLG) and the Michigan Association for Justice (MAJ).
If your child was diagnosed with a birth injury, such as cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder or hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), the award winning birth injury lawyers at ABC Law Centers can help. We have helped children throughout the country obtain compensation for lifelong treatment, therapy and a secure future, and we give personal attention to each child and family we represent. Our nationally recognized birth injury firm has numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success and no fees are ever paid to our firm until we win your case. Email or call Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers at 888-419-2229 for a free case evaluation. Our firm’s award winning lawyers are available 24 / 7 to speak with you.