Nurses are an integral part of patient care, especially for pregnant patients. Many nurses have the opportunity to form strong bonds with patients during the many monthly checkups, labor and delivery, and the postpartum period. They're the most consistent and attentive caregivers in medical settings and are often the first ones patients go to when they have questions about their care. Nurses can play a large role in patient advocacy as well, and in emergency situations, they may have to be the voice for the patient. In patients with preeclampsia, this is especially important. Nurses who work in obstetrics can make a huge difference by recognizing symptoms that the patient might write off as "not a big deal." Preeclampsia is a serious problem that can go undetected, and having someone who can help with diagnosis or hold a patient's hand while they deal with the complications it can cause can make a huge difference.
Education is empowering, and nurses are one of the biggest providers of that education. Preeclampsia can strike quickly and progress rapidly, with the symptoms becoming severe in the time between regular monthly prenatal appointments. Educating patients on the symptoms of preeclampsia can give them a greater understanding of the seriousness of the condition so they can monitor themselves between appointments.
When pregnant patients recognize the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia because they were given a detailed understanding by their nurse, they are more likely to report symptoms as well as comply with treatment plans. This can help to minimize the adverse outcomes of preeclampsia and cause much less stress overall for the patient.
Nurses and medical centers are expected to follow a standard set of practices for every pregnant person dealing with preeclampsia.
Patients with high blood pressure during pregnancy should be closely monitored after birth. Even during the postpartum period, preeclampsia can occur and even worsen. In the United States, the standard of care suggests that patients have a six-week checkup, but those who experienced preeclampsia during their pregnancy should be seen between 48 and 72 hours after hospital discharge to check on their blood pressure. This is also a great time to let them know about preeclampsia symptoms that might arise during the postpartum period and fill out a symptoms sheet so you can get a better idea of how they're doing, even if they may be brushing things off as fine.
During the postpartum period, nurses should also check in on the patient's mental health. Those who survive preeclampsia are up to four times more likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to those who had a healthy pregnancy. A nurse is a trusted advocate for emotional and mental health needs as well as physical needs, so having somebody there during a time of stress and emotional burden can do wonders in reducing trauma, both in the short term and the long term. These mental check-ins can be done in that initial appointment after discharge as well as at the six-week checkup.
Preeclampsia doesn't end when the baby is born: It puts the patient's health at risk for years to come. Those who have had preeclampsia can be at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure for as long as 15 years postpartum. Having had preeclampsia one time may also increase the risk of having it again in future pregnancies.