Preeclampsia in sub-Saharan Africa

Early Bird_United National Development 2008, CC 2.0, Unmodified

By BIPLAB BHATTACHARYA

Published December 1, 2016

Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that can begin at around week 20 and may present a wide range of symptoms, such as high blood pressure, weight gain, presence of high amounts of protein in urine, and abdominal pain. Due to diverse and inconsistent symptoms, it is often misdiagnosed as hypertension.

Dr. Lanre Omotayo, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University at Buffalo is researching this common yet complex condition and offers two key observations.

First, the origins of preeclampsia are noted in the 5 century BCE by Hippocrates. While much preeclampsia data has been generated from case studies and live-birth statistics, research gaps related for preventing and treating preeclampsia remain. Deeper research into stillbirths may help paint a more accurate picture. Preeclampsia alters the structure and vitality of the umbilical cord, thereby, affecting the baby’s access to life-sustaining blood and nutrients, yet, we lack an understanding on whether or not preeclampsia complications caused newborn mortality.

Second, development of therapeutic treatments that delay progression of health complications due to preeclampsia diverts attention from finding a cure to the condition. For example, magnesium sulphate (MgSO) has been shown to reduce the progression of preeclampsia to eclampsia. As soon as this discovery was made, many research and intervention efforts focused on MgSO. This shift in research does not address the bigger picture and the need to understand the origins of preeclampsia.