232 chapter 10: Pregnancy
Toxemia of pregnancy (pre-eclampsia)
Some swelling in the legs and ankles is normal in pregnancy. But swelling of the
hands and face can be a sign of pre-eclampsia (also called toxemia of pregnancy),
especially if you also have headaches, blurred vision, or pains in your belly. Sudden
weight gain, high blood pressure, and a lot of protein in the urine are also signs
of toxemia. Toxemia can cause convulsions
(seizures or ‘fits’), and both you and the baby
can die. Convulsions are different from the
seizures caused by epilepsy (see page 231).
You may be at risk of toxemia if you or
your mother or sisters have had it, or if it is
your first pregnancy, or you are pregnant
for the first time by a new partner. Toxemia
is also more common for women who
have high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney
problems, for severe headaches, for women
over 35, and for women expecting more than
If you have any signs of toxemia, go to a midwife or healthworker who can test
you to see if you are in danger.
What to do:
• Stay quiet and in bed. Eat good, nutritious foods, especially foods rich in
protein, but with only a little salt. Avoid salty foods.
• If you do not get better quickly, or if you have trouble seeing, or the swelling
increases in your face, or if you have a seizure, get medical help fast. Your life is
Pressure Sores (Bed Sores)
Women who sit or lie down most of the time can develop pressure sores easily if
too much time passes without moving or changing position. This is especially true
for women who are paralyzed and cannot feel pain. When you are pregnant, the
extra weight puts even more pressure on the body parts where sores are the most
likely to develop.
What to do:
Try to move or change your position more often than usual—at least once every
hour. Check your skin over the pressure-sore areas more often than before you were
pregnant. Also, see page 116 for information on preventing pressure sores.
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007