• Preeclampsia is defined as a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. It normally occurs after 20 weeks gestation and up to six weeks postpartum. Preeclampsia is the most common acquired disorder during pregnancy, and affects about 5-8% of pregnancies. About 15-25% of women with gestational hypertension (high blood pressure during pregnancy) will develop this condition [1]. Eclampsia is when pregnant women with preeclampsia develop seizures or coma [2].
  • There are two stages in the development of preeclampsia. In the first, no signs and symptoms are present but placental development is abnormal. This leads to excessive amounts of placental material entering into the maternal circulation. The second stage is when the woman develops symptoms and the characteristic high blood pressure, renal impairment and proteinuria occur [3]. Both preeclampsia and eclampsia are associated with an increased risk of developing CVD after pregnancy, so it is important for women to maintain a healthy lifestyle and see their cardiologists annually [4].

Common symptoms [2]:

      • Swelling
      • Sudden weight gain
      • Headaches
      • Changes in vision
      • Decreased urine output
  • Preeclampsia is shown to be associated with developing heart disease and stroke later in life. Women with a history of preeclampsia have three to four times the risk of developing hypertension, and double the risk of developing heart disease and stroke. This risk can be even higher when women have had preeclampsia along with a preterm delivery, low-birthweight babies, or had preeclampsia more than once [5].
  • Preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are one of the leading causes of maternal illness and death; therefore, early detection, and treatment is key. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms noted above during pregnancy, stop by Heart and Health Medical to get assessed and receive the proper treatment.

While research is being done, the causes of preeclampsia are still unknown. However, there are some known risk factors [6]:

    • First-time pregnancy
    • Previously having gestational hypertension or preeclampsia
    • Women whose sisters and mothers had preeclampsia
    • Women carrying multiple babies
    • Women younger than 20 years and older than age 40
    • Women who had hypertension or kidney disease prior to pregnancy
    • Women who have a BMI of 30 or greater

Ways to help control preeclampsia and reduce risk of developing chronic conditions after pregnancy[6]:

  • DASH diet
  • Quit smoking
  • Lose weight and exercise
  • Talk to a doctor about taking aspirin

Treatments [2]:

  • The only true cure for preeclampsia and eclampsia is to deliver the baby
  • To mitigate symptoms and prevent complications, magnesium sulfate may be given to treat and prevent active seizures.
  • Antihypertensives are commonly used to lower blood pressure.


  1. About preeclampsia. Preeclampsia foundation Web site. https://www.preeclampsia.org/health-information/about-preeclampsia. Accessed July, 2017.
  2. Valente AM, Economy KE. Preeclampsia. Circulation AHA. 2013; 128(17): e344-e345. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.113.003858.
  3. Naderi, S, Raymond R. Pregnancy and heart disease. Dis manag. 2014. http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/cardiology/pregnancy-and-heart-disease/.
  4. Hladunewich M, Karumanchi SA, Lafayette R. Pathophysiology of the clinical manifestations of preeclampsia. CJASN. 2007; 2(3): 543-49.
  5. Preeclampsia. Mayo clinic Web site. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/preeclampsia/symptoms-causes/dxc-20316143. Accessed July, 2017.
  6. Preeclampsia: Symptoms, risks, treatment and prevention. American Pregnancy Association Web site. http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/preeclampsia/. Accessed July, 2017.