Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Development of hypertension with proteinuria or edema, or both, due to pregnancy or the influence of a recent pregnancy; it usually occurs after the 20th week of gestation, but may develop before this time in the presence of trophoblastic disease.

The exact cause of pre-eclampsia is unknown. Possible causes include:

    Autoimmune disorders.

  • Blood vessel problems.

  • Your diet.

  • Your genes.

Risk factors include:

    First pregnancy.

  • Multiple pregnancy (twins or more).

  • Obesity.

  • Being older than age 35.

  • History of diabetes, high blood pressure, or kidney disease.

Sign and symptoms of pre-eclampsia usually go away within 6 weeks after delivery. However, the high blood pressure sometimes get worse the first few days after delivery. If you have had pre-eclampsia, you are more likely to develop it again in another pregnancy. However, it is not usually as severe as the first time.

If you have high blood pressure during more than one pregnancy, you are more likely to have high blood pressure when you get older.


Symptoms of pre-eclampsia include:

    Swelling of the hands and face/eyes (edema).

  • Sudden weight gain over 1-2 days, more than 2 pounds a week.

  • Headache that does not go away.

  • Belly pain on the right side, below the ribs. Pain may also be felt in the right shoulder, and can be confused with heartburn, gallbladder pain, a stomach virus, or the baby kicking.

  • Irritability.

  • Decreased urine output, not urinating very often.

  • Nausea and vomiting (worrisome sign).

  • Vision changes, including temporary blindness, seeing flashing lights or spots, sensitivity to light, and blurry vision.


The doctor will perform a physical exam. This may show:

    High blood pressure, usually higher than 140/90 mmHg.

  • Swelling in the hands and face.

  • Weight gain.

  • Blood and urine tests will be done.

This may show:

    Protein in the urine (proteinuria).

  • Higher-than-normal liver enzymes.

  • Platelet count less than 100,000.

Tests will also be done to:

    See how well your blood clots.

  • Monitor the baby's health.

  • The results of a pregnancy ultrasound, non-stress test, and other tests will help your doctor decide whether your baby needs to be delivered immediately.

Women who had low blood pressure at the start of their pregnancy, followed by a significant rise in blood pressure need to be watched closely for other signs of pre-eclampsia.


The only way to cure pre-eclampsia is to deliver the baby.

If your baby is developed enough (usually 37 weeks or later), your doctor may want your baby to be delivered so the pre-eclampsia does not get worse. You may receive medicines to help trigger labor, or you may need a C-section.

If your baby is not fully developed and you have mild pre-eclampsia, the disease can often be managed at home until your baby has a good chance of surviving after delivery. The doctor will probably recommend:

    Bed rest, lying on your left side most or all of the time.

  • Drinking plenty of water.

  • Eating less salt.

  • Frequent doctor visits to make sure you and your baby are doing well.

  • Medicines to lower your blood pressure (sometimes).

  • Sometimes, a pregnant woman with pre-eclampsia is admitted to the hospital so the health care team can more closely watch the baby and mother.

Treatment in the hospital may include:

    Close monitoring of the mother and baby.

  • Medicines to control blood pressure and prevent seizures and other complications.

  • Steroid injections (after 24 weeks) to help speed up the development of the baby's lungs.

You and your doctor will continue to discuss the safest time to deliver your baby, considering:

    How close you are to your due date. The further along you are in the pregnancy before you deliver, the better it is for your baby.

  • The severity of the pre-eclampsia. Pre-eclampsia has many severe complications that can harm the mother.

  • How well the baby is doing in the womb.

  • The baby must be delivered if there are signs of severe pre-eclampsia including:

Tests that show your baby is not growing well or is not getting enough blood and oxygen. The bottom number of your blood pressure is over 110 mmHg or is greater than 100 mmHg consistently over a 24-hour period.

Abnormal liver function test results:

    Severe headaches.

  • Pain in the belly area (abdomen).

  • Seizures or changes in mental function (eclampsia).

  • Fluid in the mother's lungs (pulmonary edema).

  • HELLP syndrome (rare).

  • Low platelet count or bleeding.

  • Low urine output, a lot of protein in the urine, and other signs that your kidneys aren't working properly.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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