Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library


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

Pronounced: pre-ee-clamp'-see-ah


Pre-eclampsia is high blood pressure during pregnancy. You may also have too much protein in your urine. This condition can harm your organs.

Cardiovascular System and Kidneys
Woman with BP

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Causes  ^

The cause is unknown.

Risk Factors  ^

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
  • Diabetes
  • Carrying multiple babies such as twins
  • First pregnancy
  • Chronic high blood pressure
  • Overweight or obese

Symptoms  ^

You may not have symptoms. If you do have symptoms, you may have:

  • Rapid weight gain
  • Swelling of the hands and face
  • Headaches
  • Problems seeing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Upper belly pain
  • Overactive reflexes
  • Chest pain
  • Problems breathing

Diagnosis  ^

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

Treatment  ^

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

Home Treatment

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

Prevention  ^

If you have had pre-eclampsia in the past, ask your doctor whether you should take aspirin. It has been shown to prevent this health problem in women who are at risk.


The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians


The Canadian Women's Health Network

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC)


Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated April 30, 2018. Accessed August 9, 2018.

Kumar A, Devi SG, Batra S, Singh C, Shukla DK. Calcium supplementation for the prevention of pre-eclampsia. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2009;104(1):32-36.

Preeclampsia and high blood pressure during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: Updated May 2018. Accessed August 9, 2018.

Pregnancy-induced hypertension. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: Updated April 1, 2014. Accessed August 9, 2018.

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(5):490.e1-e6.

7/6/2006 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance 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(3):639-649.

8/6/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance 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):402-414.

6/9/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance Qin JZ, Pang LH, Li MJ, Fan XJ, Huang RD, Chen HY. Obstetric complications in women with polycystic ovary syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2013;11:56

Last reviewed June 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG  Last Updated: 8/9/2018