Less than half of well-educated women know the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia. And still others may not share their symptoms with their healthcare providers for fear of over-reacting.
The Preeclampsia Foundation is working to improve the resources available to all women and their caregivers by providing evidence based educational materials in our Store. We also encourage providers to recommend the trustworthy information on our website to all their patients.
Educating patients is the first line of defense when it comes to proper recognition and reporting of symptoms. Preeclampsia can be a rapidly progressing disorder with symptoms becoming more and more critical in a short window of time between regular prenatal appointments. The patient is often the first responder. With greater understanding of the seriousness of preeclampsia, comes greater compliance and reporting. But just telling patients about preeclampsia is not enough.
Pregnant patients have a generally poor understanding of preeclampsia, although improved understanding is associated with having received information from their provider. Here are some things to consider when educating your patients.
Lay Terms - Don't assume what she needs to know. Use plain language. Say high blood pressure rather than hypertension.
Be Clear - Make sure she knows the symptoms and exactly what to do if she experiences any of them.
Assess Her Understanding - Rather than asking, "Do you have any symptoms to report?' try "Have you experienced any changes in your eye sight? Have you had any really bad headaches that won't go away, even with medication?" Ask her what she would do if she did experience any of those symptoms. Is she supposed to call the nurse's line or head directly to labor and delivery? Make sure she knows.
When women know how to recognize the signs and symptoms, and they understand the explanations offered, they are not only more likely to report symptoms but they are also more likely to comply with prescribed treatments. This has a direct impact on reducing adverse outomes.
There is also research to suggest that patient education also increases provider education. When a provider is consistently explaining signs and symptoms, they are more likely to respond appropriately when a woman follows advice and reports her symptoms.
What is it?
Why should you care?
What should you pay attention to?
What should you do?
Please don't tell your patients not to use Google (there is no avoiding women searching online for immediate answers). Rather give them reputable sources to access. List these website in your patient portal or on your website.
Finally, Don't forget about postpartum education. 75% of preeclampsia related deaths happen in the postpartum period. Make sure women who are at risk for preeclampsia understand that delivery is NOT the cure for preeclampsia and that they need to remain vigilant, even after they have their baby. Consider scheduling a follow up appointment within the first week after birth for these patients.
Our patient education materials are evidence based to get women's attention and promote understanding of preeclampsia.
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