According to the Preeclampsia Foundation,
Typically, preeclampsia occurs after 20 weeks gestation (in the late 2nd or 3rd trimesters or middle to late pregnancy), though it can occur earlier. Proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage preeclampsia. Preeclampsia, Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH) and toxemia are closely related conditions. HELLP Syndrome and eclampsia are other manifestations of the same syndrome."
The website estimates it to "cost the US over $7 Billion alone" per year. The exact statistics are shocking. The FAQs offer answers to many questions about this condition, but the one I want to focus on in this post is the question: What causes preeclampsia? Can it be prevented?
First of all, I would like to say that I am not trying to "blame" anyone if they suffered preeclampsia, or any of its related conditions. I am not at all trying to say that it was their fault, or that they brought it on themselves. I am not saying that all cases are preventable. I am merely stating what I have learned and experienced from having had five healthy pregnancies and births (four at home), from reading about this subject in depth, and from learning from midwives and other natural birth supporters. Of course, I am no medical doctor, so please do not view this as medical advice. It is your responsibility, and yours only, to educate yourself about your health and that of those you love and care about. No doctor in the world will ever care more about your well-being than you yourself will.
Among most midwives, it is usually common knowledge that preeclampsia is caused by a lack of protein. It is, in short, a nutritional deficiency. They often admonish expectant moms to follow the "Brewer Pregnancy Diet", developed by Dr. Brewer, a doctor who long held that moms who followed this nutritional advice never got preeclampsia, and also warded off a whole host of other possible pregnancy-related issues. Please click here to go to a website that explains the diet in detail and offers much information and scientific backup.
The medical society, by and large, has rejected this explanation. Maybe it sounds too simple, but scurvy was caused by a lack of vitamin C, the plague was caused by a lack of sanitation, and child-bed fever was caused by doctors going from patient to patient without washing their hands. The solutions to all of these problems were discovered decades before they became standard practice, because they were all dismissed as being too ridiculous to accept. Or maybe, as in everything, the love of money is behind all this. Did you know that on average, 80% of hospital profits come from the labor and delivery department? I just learned that last week. Think about that for a minute. There's just not a whole lot of money in a normal, natural birth that doesn't require anyone to be there except mom and baby.
Some time back I read that there had been a study comparing the pregnancy outcomes of expectant moms on high protein diets, and moms who just ate a "normal" diet. There was no significant difference between the groups with regard to preeclampsia. However, it should be noted that the women in the study did not consume protein from whole foods (both animal and plant based), but rather from protein shakes. This study is largely responsible for most doctors dismissing the "protein deficiency theory". However, nutritionally speaking there is a massive difference between consuming whole foods, and consuming a highly-processed supplement.
In fact, many midwives have witnessed cases of beginning preeclampsia reversed after the mother made a conscious effort to eat an extremely high protein diet in an attempt to turn her condition around. Under careful monitoring, this is often successful, and definitely beats having to tear a baby out of the womb prematurely to save its life and that of the mother.
If you are pregnant, unless you are counting protein grams, you are probably not getting enough. And not just proteins, but proteins from different sources such as eggs, milk products, meat, beans, and whole grains. If you have a family history of preeclampsia, you should be extra careful to make every bite you eat while pregnant count.
The characteristic high blood pressure and swelling in the face and sometimes hands are late warning signs of preeclampsia. A much earlier warning sign is protein in the urine, a sign that the mother's body has started breaking down her own muscles and other protein stores in order to make it available to the baby. At this point, focusing on healthy proteins would almost always avert the full-blown condition in the mom. Unfortunately, most "pee sticks" that OBs offer at prenatals do not check for protein in the urine, whereas midwives use sticks that test for almost a dozen different warning signs that may be present in a sample.
The philosophies of doctors and midwives are vastly different in that the first will wait for a problem to crop up, and then go at it with the big guns, while the latter focus mostly on preventing any complications from arising in the first place.
Taking a prenatal is NOT a substitute for proper nutrition. In fact, it may make things worse. A recent study linked taking folic acid supplements during the last trimester to a number of adverse conditions in the babies, while consuming the same amount of folic acid in natural form (i.e. leafy greens, asparagus, whole grains, eggs) only showed beneficial effects.
In any case, eating healthily never hurt anyone, so the Brewer Pregnancy Diet can safely be recommended to all expectant moms.