(formerly called toxemia of pregnancy) is a pregnancy-related condition that
causes high blood pressure and affects the mother's kidneys, liver, brain, and
placenta. Its cause is unknown.
usually develops after the 20th week of pregnancy, it can very rarely begin
earlier. Preeclampsia can develop gradually or suddenly, and it may remain mild or
become severe. If untreated, preeclampsia may damage the mother's liver or
kidneys, deprive the fetus of oxygen, and cause
blood pressure (generally 140/90 mm Hg or higher). Any
large increase in blood pressure should alert a woman and her doctor to
such as blinking lights or blurry vision.
Pain in the upper right
Lab results indicating elevated uric acid and/or protein
in the urine (proteinuria).
Swelling of the hands and face that
does not go away during the day. This symptom of normal pregnancy may be a sign
of preeclampsia if it is accompanied by other signs of preeclampsia.
A woman with any signs of preeclampsia is closely monitored
by her doctor or midwife. Moderate preeclampsia is treated in the hospital with
bed rest, magnesium sulfate, and sometimes medicine for high blood pressure.
Delivery is the only true "cure" for preeclampsia.
When a woman
has severe preeclampsia or is near term with mild to moderate preeclampsia,
delivery is the best treatment. Labor may be started with medicine, unless a
cesarean section is deemed necessary.
Within the first few days
following delivery, the mother's blood pressure usually returns to normal; with
severe preeclampsia, it may take several weeks for blood pressure to return to
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.