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 the pregnancy.
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The cause of pre-eclampsia is unknown.
Pre-eclampsia is more common in African-American women, and in women aged 40 years and older. Other factors that may increase your chance of pre-eclampsia:
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:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Preeclampsia is diagnosed if a pregnant woman has high blood pressure and significant protein in her urine.
Tests may include:
Treating pre-eclampsia early can prevent its progression to eclampsia, which is seizures caused by severe pre-eclampsia.
Treatment may include:
The only way to cure pre-eclampsia is to deliver the baby. The decision for delivery depends on a combination of factors, such as:
Labor may happen naturally or it may be induced. If there are life-threatening circumstances for either you or your baby, a cesarean section may be required. During labor, you may need medication to control your blood pressure and prevent seizures.
Mild pre-eclampsia can often be managed with rest and medication if the baby is close to term. Your doctor may recommend medications to:
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:
If pre-eclampsia is moderate or your home situation is not restful, the doctor may admit you to the hospital. Treatment may include:
To help reduce your chance of pre-eclampsia or other pregnancy complications:
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
The Canadian Women's Health Network
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC)
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Preeclampsia and high blood pressure during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq034.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130314T1318525934. Updated September 2014. Accessed June 6, 2016.
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Last reviewed June 2016 by James Cornell, MD Last Updated: 6/6/2016