Pre-eclampsia

Pre-eclampsia is a problem that occurs in some women during pregnancy. Blood pressure increases and protein appears in the urine. This usually occurs during the second half of pregnancy.

  • Causes

    The cause of pre-eclampsia is unknown.

  • Definition

    Pre-eclampsia is a problem that occurs in some women during pregnancy. Blood pressure increases and protein appears in the urine. This usually occurs during the second half of pregnancy.

    Cardiovascular System and Kidneys
    Woman with BP
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  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

    Preeclampsia is diagnosed if a pregnant women has high blood pressure and significant protein in her urine.

    Tests may include:

    • Blood pressure measurement to see if blood pressure is 140/90 or higher
    • Urine tests to look for elevated protein levels
    • Blood tests—to check general body health and kidney and liver function

  • Prevention

    To help reduce your chance of developing pre-eclampsia or other pregnancy complications, take these steps:

    • Get early and regular prenatal care. Early treatment of pre-eclampsia may prevent eclampsia.
    • If you have chronic high blood pressure, keep it under control during pregnancy.
    • Get your doctor's approval before taking any prescription or over-the-counter medications.
    • Do not smoke or drink alcohol during pregnancy.
    • Eat regular, healthful meals, and take prenatal vitamins.

    • Ask your doctor if you should take a daily
      calcium
      supplement. In women who have a low calcium intake, supplementation may reduce the risk of pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, and
      premature birth
      .

    • Your doctor may recommend that you take
      aspirin
      to lower your risk of pre-eclampsia.

  • Risk Factors

    Pre-eclampsia is more common in African-American women over, and in women aged 40 years and older. Factors that may increase your chance of getting pre-eclampsia include:

    • Pre-eclampsia in a previous pregnancy
    • First pregnancy
    • Family history, such as a mother and sister who also had the condition
    • Carrying multiple babies such as twins
    • Chronic high blood pressure
    • Obesity
    • Kidney disease
    • Diabetes

    • Overweight or
      obese
    • Sleep-disordered breathing—abnormal breathing during sleep ranging from snoring to sleep apnea
    • History of polycystic ovary syndrome
    • Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome

  • Symptoms

    Women with pre-eclampsia may have no symptoms. It is important to see your doctor regularly during pregnancy to detect problems early.

    In women with symptoms, pre-eclampsia may cause:

    • Headaches
    • Bloating or water retention
    • Noticeably swollen ankles or feet, outside of normal swelling that occurs during pregnancy
    • Swelling of the face and upper body
    • Vision troubles
    • Upper abdominal pain
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Feeling short of breath
    • Chest pain
    • Urinating less

  • Treatment

    Treating pre-eclampsia early can prevent its progression to eclampsia, which are seizures caused by severe pre-eclampsia.

    Treatment may include: