World Preeclampsia Day brings focus on maternal health

The first ever World Preeclampsia Day took place last month, with a number of maternal health organisations joining forces in a bid to raise awareness of preeclampsia as a life-threatening complication of pregnancy.

Nearly 76,000 mothers and 500,000 babies worldwide lose their lives to preeclampsia and related hypertensive disorders of pregnancy every year. World Preeclampsia Day's theme – "Be prepared before lightning strikes" – sought to encourage pregnant women to recognise symptoms early and if they experience any, contact their healthcare providers. Eclampsia is the Greek word for lightning.


A proclamation endorsed by World Preeclampsia Day cosponsors and other maternal health organizations spoke of the need to highlight the common condition and its potential negative impact on the health of both mothers and babies. “We join together to highlight the relatively high prevalence and devastating impact of preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. These disorders are not rare complications of pregnancy; indeed, they affect 8-10% of pregnancies worldwide.”

Preeclampsia is a common factor in preterm delivery and accounts for 20% of all neonatal intensive care admissions. For the mother, complications can cause lengthy illness and are strongly associated with the future development of debilitating diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and renal impairment.

The World Health Organization has highlighted that the condition has a highly disproportionate impact on low-to-middle income countries (LMIC), where over 99% of preeclampsia-related deaths occur. It is estimated that 16% of maternal deaths in LMICs result from preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. It is the leading cause of maternal mortality in the Americas, accounting for a quarter of all maternal deaths in Latin America, and a tenth of maternal deaths in Africa and Asia.

“Working individually and in partnership, we must continue to shine a strong light on preeclampsia and related disorders to ensure that they are minimized and their tragic impact reduced. The opportunity to reduce the prevalence of these disorders and their impact on women, infants, families, and communities worldwide is within our grasp,” stated the organisers.

With limited understanding about the cause and preventative or effective treatments, the need for basic and clinical research to advance medical options and healthcare practices must be prioritized, they added.


See more on the symptoms of preeclampsia at:

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