Health risks after pre-eclampsia

More and more is known about the consequences of pre-eclampsia. For example, it recently emerged that pre-eclampsia puts you at increased risk of feeling depressed after giving birth. This is the outcome of research by medical psychologist Meeke Hoedjes of the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam. But there are also physical risks associated with preeclampsia. What to do and what do you need to know? Read more. It is a fairly logical expectation that women who have had pre-eclampsia will feel physically worse for a certain period of time than the ‘average’ woman after pregnancy. But research by Meeke Hoedjes, who obtained her PhD from Erasmus MC, also shows something else: women who have had pre-eclampsia feel less mentally healthy after giving birth. The more serious the preeclampsia was, the more true this is. Of the women with severe pre-eclampsia, almost half reported experiencing depressive symptoms after giving birth. Partly because of these facts, Erasmus MC started an outpatient clinic to provide extensive aftercare to these women.

Referral to the psychologist

Hats, medical psychologist: Healthcare providers should be more aware of possible poor mental health after pre-eclampsia. They should refer eligible women to specialized psychosocial care, such as a medical psychologist or medical social work.

Advice after pre-eclampsia

It is therefore important to be extra alert to persistent sadness or even depressive feelings after pre-eclampsia. In consultation with those who provide aftercare after pregnancy, you can be referred for psychological help. But there’s more. After preeclampsia, it is extra important to follow a healthy lifestyle. Preeclampsia increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes later in life. Unfortunately, that healthy lifestyle is far away for many women after giving birth, research figures show. Two in five or 38% of women do not adhere to the so-called exercise standard after giving birth. Women who have had severe pre-eclampsia in particular do not exercise enough. Women cite not having recovered sufficiently from pre-eclampsia as the main reason for their failure to adopt a healthier lifestyle. This is often a chicken-and-egg problem: women do not allow themselves enough care to catch their breath again, and their recovery is therefore hampered.

Guidance and help

The women in the study indicate that they especially need tailor-made guidance. So, guidance that you can decide for yourself how and when it takes place, and how long the guidance lasts. Such a tailor-made intervention does not yet exist. But you can use a so-called general lifestyle intervention that has been developed for women after pregnancy.

Self-care after pre-eclampsia

The best care starts with good self-care. Monitor your own health after pre-eclampsia, even if you are no longer being treated by healthcare providers. Even if you haven’t had pre-eclampsia, the rule of thumb for ‘depregnancy’ in mind and body is already a year. So feel free to take some time to get everything sorted out… but don’t fool yourself. Is your body just not recovering? Do you always have sad and depressive feelings? Do you just remain lethargic and your energy does not return? These are all important signals that it is time for a conversation with your doctor.

A cultural problem

After pregnancy, women all too often try to move on and ignore signals that their own well-being is not in order. This also applies to women after pre-eclampsia. We live in a 24-hour society that still places far too little value and space on the precious life that women pass on through pregnancy and birth, in a process that costs you as a woman a lot of energy. So the pressure is on to act as if nothing is wrong as quickly as possible. Don’t participate in that. Take care of yourself. Seek help and advice in a timely manner. You are worth it!


More extensive aftercare

Hoedjes believes that, ideally, extensive aftercare should be available for all women with severe pre-eclampsia. In the meantime, Erasmus MC has made a start on this. A consultation hour has been opened for more extensive aftercare for the target group of women after pre-eclampsia. There is already a gynecologist and an internist-vascular physician present, and a psychologist and a dietician will soon follow as participants in the treatment team.

The Erasmus MC

Erasmus MC is part of the Dutch Federation of University Medical Centers (NFU). The NFU is a partnership of the eight university medical centers (UMCs) in the Netherlands and its general objective is to promote the joint interests of the UMCs. Other UMCs that are part of the NFU are the AMC, azM, LUMC, UMCG, UMC St Radboud, UMC Utrecht and VUmc. A total of 60,000 employees are associated with the eight UMCs.

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