Keeping an eye for the signs of preeclampsia (toxemia) is of critical importance in cases where you are considering a traditional or a gestational surrogate.
Fully understanding the risks of preeclampsia can to help assuage fears around this condition. Research shows that preeclampsia affects fewer pregnancies than commonly thought, is rarely severe, and it usually does not cause serious problems.
As a surrogacy candidate, you should have an open dialogue with your doctor about the risks, and schedule regular checkups. The doctor will want to monitor your blood pressure over time to ensure you stay within a healthy range. A healthy diet and lifestyle can also help prevent preeclampsia from affecting your surrogacy.
What is preeclampsia?
Sometimes called toxemia, preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication whose symptoms are high blood pressure, protein in your urine, and potential signs of kidney or liver damage. The highest risk of preeclampsia normally occurs around the 20th week of pregnancy. The condition is most often discovered during routine antenatal appointments.
In some preeclampsia cases, further symptoms develop like swelling of the feet, ankles, face and hands caused by fluid retention (oedema), migraines, visual problems, and physical pain just below the ribs.
The earlier that the disease is diagnosed, the better.
Preeclampsia can lead to serious complications if not monitored and treated. Preeclampsia can hurt the baby by preventing the placenta from getting enough blood, which in turn means that the baby does not receive sufficient oxygen, or nutrients. This condition may lead to needing to have a premature birth procedure operated to save the baby. It can sometimes also cause placental abruption where the placenta separates from the uterus, resulting in stillbirth. Preterm labor is also common in preeclampsia patients.
When severe, a surrogate experiencing preeclampsia can endure strokes, seizures, fluid in the lungs, heart failure, and problems in kidneys, liver or eyes. Although most cases of the condition are mild, 2-8% of births in the United States experience preeclampsia.
Can preeclampsia threaten my surrogacy?
As surrogacy is a long and difficult journey, one of the prerequisites to becoming a surrogate is having already had a child to understand the entire process firsthand. If you have had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy, you will likely be disqualified from becoming a surrogate. Similarly, if you have not had preeclampsia before but develop it during a surrogacy, your doctor may the recommend you be a surrogate for future pregnancies for your own health.
Can preeclampsia be treated?
If diagnosed, surrogates with preeclampsia should be referred to a specialist.
Doctors usually advise a bed rest, plenty of water and foods that are rich in protein. They may also recommend magnesium or hydralazine to help lower blood pressure and prevent seizures. Regular prenatal checkups are required to monitor the condition in both the baby and in the surrogate, and they may use ultrasounds to check on the baby’s heartbeat. Steroid injections may be used to accelerate the development of the baby’s lungs too.
Taking up to 81 mg per day of aspirin after 12 weeks of pregnancy has also shown to reduce the risk of preeclampsia without evidence of negative effects on the baby. The only real cure for preeclampsia, however, is to deliver the baby. In severe cases, doctors may need to induce labor, even if the due date is not close. At 37 weeks, when the baby is usually developed enough, delivery is likely the only option to prevent the condition from worsening. In most cases, the surrogate delivers a happy, healthy baby (without prolonged detriments to themselves).
Is preeclampsia more common in surrogates?
Surrogates face increased pregnancy risks of preeclampsia because they carry multiple embryos—a practice often used to help ensure pregnancy success. Having multiple births also increases the risk of preeclampsia. As the ‘paternal effect’ of foreign genetic material increases the risk of preeclampsia, traditional surrogacy journeys are at a lesser threat due to prior exposure to the father’s genetic material. This risk with traditional surrogates also decreases with each subsequent pregnancy with the same father. Gestational surrogates, however, are at a higher risk of preeclampsia, especially if the father is different with each surrogacy. Even if the gestational surrogate has been screened for health, there is no way to predict the risk of preeclampsia coming from the biological mother’s egg.
Are there any long-term effects from preeclampsia to the baby or surrogate?
In most cases, the answer is no.
Even with induced labor, both parties usually turn out absolutely fine. For the surrogate and the child, rare long-term risks include a higher susceptibility to hypertension and chronic kidney disease. These risks can be managed with lifestyle changes and monitoring by a physician. The surrogate may also be at an increased risk of diabetes mellitus, ischemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and a few other diseases related to the cardiovascular and urinary systems.
SurrogateFirst helps individuals and couples, regardless of race or sexual orientation, build their families through the miracle of surrogacy. We are a boutique surrogate agency that specializes in matching intended parents around the world with our vetted, exceptional surrogates. Every team member is either a former intended parent or an experienced surrogate. We have first-hand knowledge of what it takes to have an amazing and successful surrogacy journey.