What Is Preeclampsia In Pregnancy – Causes, Symptoms & Remedies

Preeclampsia is a critical medical condition that happens either in pregnancy or postpartum period. Women with preeclampsia have high blood pressure, swelling in hands and feet, headache, blurred vision and proteinuria (protein in urine).

What Is Preeclampsia In Pregnancy

What is preeclampsia in pregnancy?

Preeclampsia can be defined as “ preeclampsia is persistently high blood pressure during pregnancy along with a high level of protein in urine”.

Preeclampsia usually occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It is a fatal condition both for mother and baby if left untreated. If you have symptoms of preeclampsia, talk to your doctor immediately.

Preeclampsia also damages other organs such as kidneys, liver, heart, brain, lungs and eyes. It causes the swelling of hand, feet, and face and the retention of fluids in the lungs.

Sometimes preeclampsia leads to eclampsia. Eclampsia is the onset of a seizure in pregnancy along with preeclampsia. Eclampsia is a serious medical condition and it can cause the death of the mother and baby.

The only treatment for preeclampsia is to give birth to the baby. You may experience preeclampsia symptoms of the birth for 6 weeks or more.

If you have previous hypertension history and want to protect yourself from preeclampsia, then you should know the symptoms and risk factors of preeclampsia.

When you feel the symptoms of preeclampsia, you should visit medical care clinic for treatment. The early treatment of preeclampsia is not only beneficial for mother but also for the baby.

If you have untreated preeclampsia then the only treatment is early delivery. The timing of delivery depends on the severity of preeclampsia and pregnancy time (from how many weeks you are pregnant).

Before delivery, the doctor manages the symptoms of preeclampsia. First doctor lowers hypertension and then advice appropriate medications.

Preeclampsia also develops after the birth of a baby in most cases. The symptoms of preeclampsia continue for 6 weeks or more in the postpartum period.

What are the symptoms of Preeclampsia?

Many women have no symptoms of preeclampsia. Usually, the signs of preeclampsia are detected during routine prenatal visits to a physician or healthcare provider.

Along with hypertension, protein in urine and swelling, the other signs and symptoms of  preeclampsia include:  

  • Thrombocytopenia (decreased level of platelets)
  • Severe headache
  • Blurred vision (sometimes a temporary loss of vision)
  • Abdominal pain on the right side
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hand, feet and face swelling
  • Emergency hypertension (blood pressure is 160/110 mmHg or higher)
  • Fluid retention in lungs
  • Urine production is decreased
  • Decrease liver function (increase liver enzymes, which indicate liver problems)
  • Decrease kidney function because of proteinuria
  • Unusual weight gain with edema
  • Nausea or vomiting

If your preeclampsia is severe and symptoms are worsening then you should be admitted to the hospital for closer observation. In this situation delivery is the best option.

First, a healthcare provider will give you medications to reduce your blood pressure. When your blood pressure is normal then the healthcare provider will proceed with further treatment protocols.

When to see a doctor

it is very indispensable to do weekly checkups when you are pregnant.  In weekly or monthly checkups your healthcare provider will monitor your blood pressure, blood profile and other pregnancy-related problems.

If you have severe headache, blurred vision, elevated blood pressure, severe upper abdominal pain or shortness of breath, then you should contact your healthcare provider or visit an emergency room in the hospital. Because these are risky things during pregnancy.

You should keep in mind that nausea, vomiting, headache and body swelling is a part of normal pregnancy. But when these symptoms become severe then it’s time to visit a hospital or healthcare provider clinic.

Learn more about feet swelling in pregnancy

What Causes Preeclampsia?

The exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown but certain experts told that preeclampsia is raised from the abnormal health of the placenta. The placenta is that organ that develops during pregnancy and carries oxygen and nutrients from the mother to baby. During preeclampsia, the blood supply is decreased to baby and developing complications both for you and baby.

The other reasons that may contribute to preeclampsia development include poor nutrition, poor supply of blood to the baby, and genetic problems.

The following hypertension disorders can cause preeclampsia in pregnancy.

  • Gestational hypertension: this kind of hypertension starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy and there is no proteinuria. Women develop preeclampsia facing gestational hypertension.
  • Chronic hypertension: it is high blood pressure that develops before pregnancy or that occurs before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia: this type of hypertension becomes worsens with time, causing proteinuria and other medical complications.

Preeclampsia risk factors

The risk factors for preeclampsia include:

  • History of preeclampsia in the previous pregnancy
  • Hypertension before pregnancy
  • Chronic hypertension
  • History of type 1 or 2 diabetes before pregnancy
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Kidney diseases
  • First time pregnancy
  • Genetic history of preeclampsia
  • Obesity
  • In vitro fertilization
  • Pregnancy with a new partner instead of previous children father
  • Being pregnant in early age
  • Old age pregnancy or woman above 40 years
  • A gap in pregnancies (10 years or more gap since the previous pregnancy)
  • Medical complications in the previous pregnancy
  • Pregnancy with more than one baby
Complications of preeclampsia

The common complications of preeclampsia include fetal growth restriction. It is a condition in which the baby is born in a small size. Preeclampsia limits the supply of blood to placenta, which causes your baby to burn in small size. This condition is known as fetal growth restriction.

Premature birth is the most common complication of preeclampsia. A newborn baby can follow these complications:

  • Epilepsy
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Learning disabilities
  • Problem in vision
  • Hearing problem

Preeclampsia can cause rare severe complications that include:

  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Seizure
  • Retention of fluid in chest
  • Bleeding from lever
  • Reversible blindness
  • Severe postpartum bleeding


Preeclampsia and eclampsia cause a complication which is called HELLP syndrome. It is a condition in which preeclampsia and eclampsia damage liver and red blood cells. This syndrome is characterized by low red blood cells, increased liver enzymes and low platelet counts.

HELLP stands for:

Hemolysis: when your body breaks down red blood cells

Elevated liver enzymes: increased level of liver enzymes which indicate liver problems

Low platelets count a low number of platelet cells in your body, so your blood does not clot as require

HELLP syndrome is a serious medical condition and needs immediate emergency help.

How do I prevent preeclampsia?

If you have the risk of developing preeclampsia, take a low dose of aspirin daily. Starting low-dose aspirin in early pregnancy reduces the chances of preeclampsia by 15%.

A doctor will also advise you of certain modifications in your lifestyle. You also need:

  • Checkup your blood pressure and maintain it normal
  • Maintain proper body weight
  • Loss of weight if overweight
  • Do regular exercise
  • Stop smoking
  • Be calm in stressful conditions
  • Avoid fatty foods
How to Diagnose preeclampsia?

To diagnose preeclampsia you will have at least one symptom from the following list along with high blood pressure.

  • Low platelets counts
  • Proteinuria or protein in your urine
  • Fluid in your lungs
  • Increased liver enzymes
  • Increased level of kidney related chemicals in your blood
  • Severe headache

To confirm preeclampsia, your doctor will perform these tests:

  • Proteinuria test
  • Blood tests to check platelets counts, liver enzymes and kidney related chemicals
  • Ultrasound to check how your baby’s growth is
Blood pressure range for preeclampsia

When you have preeclampsia, your blood pressure range would be 140/90 mmHg. The other signs are protein in the urine, swelling of hands, face and feet, shortness of breath, fluid in the lungs, and low platelet counts.


Preeclampsia is the onset of high blood pressure in pregnancy. Preeclampsia is a critical medical condition that happens either in pregnancy or postpartum period. Women with preeclampsia have high blood pressure, swelling in hands and feet, headache, blurred vision and proteinuria (protein in urine).

The causes of preeclampsia are abnormal health of the placenta, poor nutrition, genetic problems, chronic hypertension, poor blood supply to the baby and gestational hypertension.

Fetal growth restriction, stroke, heart failure, reversible blindness, preterm birth and bleeding from the lever are the complications of preeclampsia.

Visit your family doctor, if you are experiencing the symptoms of preeclampsia.


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