Pregnancy is a rare cause of kidney failure. About 1% of US kidney failure each year is due to a pregnancy. The kidneys help the body adjust to extra blood volume, blood pressure changes and higher burden on the heart that pregnancy cause. If kidney function is lower than normal before a pregnancy, kidney damage may occur during one. Problems with high blood pressure can make kidney problems worse. And, new kidney problems can occur during a pregnancy.
What You Can Do
If you are pregnant, you can help protect your kidneys from damage if you:
- Ask for kidney checks. If you know that you have a kidney problem before you get pregnant, be sure that your kidney function is checked often.
- Check your own blood pressure. Blood pressure varies with the time of day and amount of stress you are under. For about $25-$75, you can buy an accurate blood pressure monitor to use at home. Ask your nurse to suggest a model and show you how to use it. Ask your doctor before taking any drug, including prescribed blood pressure pills, during pregnancy. Talk to your him or her about what your blood pressure should be. If your blood pressure is high, call your doctor!
- Tell your doctor if your mother, sister or aunt had preeclampsia. This condition can cause kidney, blood pressure and nervous system problems. It is 4 times more likely when there is a family history.
- Keep track of your blood pressure in a notebook. Bring it in for your doctor visits.
- Keep your blood sugar in control with diet and exercise if you have diabetes. The better your control, the more you protect your kidneys. Ask your doctor before taking any drug, even prescribed ones, during pregnancy.
- Wait 2 years after a successful kidney transplant to get pregnant. This will give you the best chance of success without kidney damage.
- Call your doctor right away if you have kidney symptoms. Contact your doctor or go to the emergency room, if you:
- Stop making urine
- Become pale
- Feel confused
- Get headaches or vision changes
- Have swelling in your feet or ankles
- Are dizzy when you stand up
Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Kidney Disease and Pregnancy
- How can I protect my kidneys during a pregnancy?
- What should I do if my blood pressure is high?
- Is it safe for me to exercise to keep my blood pressure low?
- Are there foods I should or should not eat when I’m pregnant to keep my kidneys healthy?
- Which of the drugs that I’ve been prescribed are safe for me during a pregnancy?
- What symptoms should I report to you right away?
- If I have kidney problems after a pregnancy, what are my chances of them going away, and how long will it take?
Links to Learn More
- Kidney Atlas – Learn about kidney disease after pregnancy: http://www.kidneyatlas.org/book4/adk4-10.pdf.
- Kidney School – View the Sexuality and Fertility module:http://www.kidneyschool.org/mod_11/mod11_01.shtml, or download the PDF: http://www.kidneyschool.org/pdfs/Module11Female.pdf.
- Preeclampsia Foundation – Find information, support, expert advice, forums, and more: http://www.preeclampsia.org/.
- Yahoo Health Support Group – Join a Preeclampsia support email listserv: http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/pre-eclampsia/. Join an email listserv for women with high blood pressure who want to get pregnant: http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/hypertensionmommies/.