Back to Previous Page

Pre-eclampsia

(Toxemia of Pregnancy; Pregnancy-induced Hypertension; Preeclampsia)

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
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

The cause of pre-eclampsia is unknown.

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:

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:

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:

Treatment

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

Delivery of the Baby

The only way to cure pre-eclampsia is to deliver the baby. The decision for delivery depends a combination of factors, such as:
  • How many weeks along you are in your pregnancy
  • Condition of the mother and baby
  • Severity of pre-eclampsia
  • Risk of other pregnancy complications
Labor may happen naturally or it may be induced. If there are life-threatening circumstances for either the mother or the baby, a cesarean section may be required. During labor, you may need medication to control blood pressure and prevent seizures.

Medication

Mild pre-eclampsia can often be managed with rest and medication the baby is close to term. Your doctor may recommend medications to:
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce the risk of convulsions
  • Help fetal lung development in case the baby is born prematurely

Home Treatment

If your home situation is stable and you live close to the hospital, your doctor may recommend that you rest at home in a quiet environment. Home treatment may include:
  • Taking frequent blood pressure readings
  • Getting plenty of rest
  • Obtaining help to prepare meals, do housework, and care for family members

Admission to the Hospital

If pre-eclampsia is moderate or your home situation is not restful, the doctor may admit you to the hospital. Treatment may include:
  • Lowering your blood pressure with medication
  • Medications to prevent eclampsia
  • Monitoring your baby's condition
  • Making sure you get enough rest

Prevention

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

RESOURCES

American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists http://www.acog.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada http://www.sogc.org

Women's Health Matters http://www.womenshealthmatters.ca

References

High blood pressure during pregnancy. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq034.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130314T1318525934 . Accessed August 5, 2013.

Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated May 28, 2013. Accessed August 5, 2013.

Pregnancy-induced hypertension. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/pregnancy-induced-hypertension.html . Updated August 2010. Accessed August 5, 2013.

What is preeclampsia? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/hbp/issues/preg/preclamp.htm . Accessed August 5, 2013.

9/30/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Samuels-Kalow ME, Funai EF, Buhimschi C, et al. Prepregnancy body mass index, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, and long-term maternal mortality. Am J Obstet Gynecol . 2007;197:490.e1-6. Epub 2007 Aug 21.

7/6/2006 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Villar J, Abdel-Aleem H, Merialdi M, et al. World Health Organization randomized trial of calcium supplementation among low calcium intake pregnant women. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006;194:639-649.

7/6/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Kumar A, Devi SG, Batra S, Singh C, Shukla DK. Calcium supplementation for the prevention of pre-eclampsia. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2009;104:32-36.

8/6/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Bujold E, Roberge S, Lacasse Y, et al. Prevention of preeclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction with aspirin started in early pregnancy: a meta-analysis. Obstet Gynecol. 2010;116(2 Pt 1):402-14.

Revision Information