Pre-eclampsia is high blood pressure during pregnancy. You may also have too much protein in your urine. This condition can harm your organs.
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Pre-eclampsia is more common in women aged 40 years and older.
Other factors that may raise your chance are:
- Pre-eclampsia in a prior pregnancy
- Antiphospholipid antibody syndrome
- Carrying multiple babies such as twins
- First pregnancy
- Chronic high blood pressure
- Overweight or obese
You may not have symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you may have:
- Rapid weight gain
- Swelling of the hands and face
- Problems seeing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Upper belly pain
- Overactive reflexes
- Chest pain
- Problems breathing
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Preeclampsia is diagnosed if you have high blood pressure.
You may also have:
- Urine tests to look for high protein levels
- Blood tests
Early treatment can help prevent eclampsia, which is seizures caused by severe pre-eclampsia.
You may have:
Delivery of the Baby
The only way to cure this condition is to deliver the baby. The decision to do so depends on many things, such as:
- How many weeks along you are in your pregnancy
- The health of you and your baby
- Severity of the pre-eclampsia
- Risk of other problems
Labor may happen on its own or it may be started by your doctor. If there are life-threatening problems for either you or your baby, a cesarean section may be done. During labor, you may need medicine to control your blood pressure and prevent seizures.
Mild pre-eclampsia can often be managed with rest and medicine if the baby is close to term. Your doctor may advise medicines to:
- Lower your blood pressure
- Lower the risk of seizures
- Help the fetus’ lungs develop if there is a chance it may be born too early
If you live close to the hospital, your doctor may advise that you rest at home in a quiet setting. At home, you may need to:
- Taking frequent blood pressure readings
- Have help to make meals, do housework, and care for other children you may have
Check your baby's health, which may mean:
- Watching for fetal movement
- Tracking kick counts
- Follow-up visits to monitor conditions inside the uterus
Admission to the Hospital
If pre-eclampsia is moderate or your home setting is not restful, the doctor may admit you to the hospital. This may mean:
- Lowering your blood pressure with medicine
- Taking medicines to prevent eclampsia
- Monitoring your baby's health
- Making sure you get enough rest
If you have had pre-eclampsia in the past, ask your doctor whether you should take aspirin or a calcium supplement. These may help prevent this health problem in women who are at risk.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org
The Canadian Women's Health Network http://www.cwhn.ca
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC) http://sogc.org
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- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG
- Review Date: 05/2018
- Update Date: 08/09/2018