Frequency and severity of potentially fatal, but very treatable, pre-eclampsia significantly higher for black women
Pre-eclampsia, a potentially fatal pregnancy condition characterized by high blood pressure, is 60 percent more common in black women than white women, according to the Healthcare Cost Utilization Project (HCUP).
Left untreated, pre-eclampsia can lead to complications — even death — for mother and baby.
“Black women are more likely to develop pre-eclampsia and to experience poorer outcomes associated with the condition … in rare cases, death,” study authors wrote. HCUP is sponsored by the federal government’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Symptoms of pre-eclampsia, also referred to as toxemia, include high blood pressure and protein in the urine occurring after the 20th week of pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia is estimated to complicate 3 percent to 6 percent of all pregnancies. The rate of pre-eclampsia in the U.S. has increased 25 percent in the past two decades, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. It is a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death.
It is considered one of the most preventable causes of maternal death, according to the study.
Pre-eclampsia can prevent the placenta from getting enough blood. That reduces the amount of oxygen and food reaching the baby. Early detection and prenatal care contributes to healthy deliveries.
Pre-eclampsia treatment and risks
Pre-eclampsia often is treated with rest and blood pressure medication. The woman’s health care provider may want to deliver the baby as early as possible.
Race and pre-eclampsia
In 2014, 70 out of 1,000 African-American women giving birth had pre-eclampsia or eclampsia, according to the HCUP study released in April 2017. That was 60 percent higher than the 43 per 1,000 Caucasian women. And most Caucasian women had mild cases, while only 37 percent of African-American women had mild symptoms.
White women and Hispanic women had substantially the same rate of the disease. Asian and Pacific Island women had the lowest rate of any ethnic group.