Detecting Preeclampsia

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Preeclampsia is a condition that develops during pregnancy that can be life-threatening for mom and baby. But a mom from Snyder County says she made it through a scary experience with the disorder with the help of a midwife at Geisinger Medical Center.

Bode is a happy, healthy, typical 2-year-old.  He loves cars and trucks and knows all about Thomas the Train.  His mom, Kim Burkhart of Selinsgrove, says she knows how lucky she is to have him.  Despite being 38 when she gave birth to him, considered of "advanced maternal age" at Geisinger, she says her pregnancy was great.

But suddenly at week 35, she was very swollen.  Her midwife called one morning to tell her some test results: she had developed preeclampsia, and doctors wanted to induce labor that day.

"I gasped- and she said, are you ok?  And I said- I was about to go to my baby shower!," Kim recalls.

Angie Cassel, Kim's midwife, explained that preeclampsia is a condition that causes vascular constriction, usually sometime after 20 weeks of pregnancy.  It's marked by high blood pressure and swelling, and can result in seizure for mom.

"If the pregnancy is allowed to continue in light of preeclampsia and the baby isn't getting adequate blood flow from the placenta, the baby can pass away," said Cassel.

Kim's case was severe, and she was already 35 weeks along, which Cassel says made it an easy decision to induce labor.  In more mild cases of preeclampsia, or if the baby isn't far enough along to survive outside the womb, it becomes a more dangerous situation, since there's no way to treat it.

"The only cure for preeclampsia is delivery," Cassel noted.

Kim calls her delivery fast-paced and chaotic, but she says she knew she was in good hands at Geisinger.  Experts there have told her, despite the complications, she is healthy enough to try for another child.

"If I'm fortunate enough for that to happen, my husband and I would love to give him a sibling," Kim said.

"He's thriving, doing well, a bright little boy.  That's what it's all about," said Cassel, who notes that it's unknown exactly what causes preeclampsia, although she says moms who are a little older are at a greater risk.