How to Say It: pre-ee-clamp'-see-ah
Pre-eclampsia is a problem in pregnancy that leads to very high blood pressure. It can also lead to kidney and liver damage.
Cardiovascular System and Kidneys
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The cause is not known.
Pre-eclampsia is more common in women who have not given birth before. Other things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
A woman may not have symptoms. Those who do may have:
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Pre-eclampsia is diagnosed if you have high blood pressure.
Other tests that may be done are:
The only way to cure this condition is to deliver the baby. The decision to do so is based on how far along the pregnancy is.
If it is safe, labor may happen on its own or it may be started by the doctor. Delivery may need to be delayed so the baby has more time to grow.
If the baby needs more time and pre-eclampsia is mild, it may be managed by:
An aspirin or a calcium supplement may lower the risk of this health problem in women who are at risk.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Women's Health Matters
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
High blood pressure during pregnancy. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/high-blood-pressure-during-pregnancy. Accessed October 15, 2020.
Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hypertensive-disorders-of-pregnancy. Accessed October 15, 2020.
Leeman L, Fontaine P. Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. Am Fam Physician 2016 Jan 15;93(2):121-127.
Preeclampsia and high blood pressure during pregnancy. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/preeclampsia-and-high-blood-pressure-during-pregnancy. Accessed October 15, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Elliot M. Levine, MD, FACOG
Last Updated: 4/27/2021