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)
High blood pressure in pregnancy. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/resources/heart/hbp-pregnancy. Accessed June 6, 2016.
Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 22, 2016. Accessed June 6, 2016.
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.
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 April 2014. Accessed June 6, 2016.
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Last reviewed June 2016 by James Cornell, MD