Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is high blood pressure that develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy, associated with proteinuria (protein spillage into the urine). Several other body systems may be affected such as your blood or liver. If left untreated, preeclampsia can be fatal for you and your unborn child. The only cure for preeclampsia is delivery. Depending upon your baby’s gestational age, this disease can be monitored to give baby more time to develop. Preeclampsia can develop after your baby has been delivered and up to six weeks postpartum. Any unusual signs of persistent headache and visual changes should be reported to your doctor immediately.

What are the signs/symptoms?

  • High blood pressure (hypertension) — 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or greater — documented on two occasions, at least six hours but no more than seven days apart.
  • Proteinuria (3+ protein or greater on a urine dipstick)
  • Severe headaches
  • Changes in vision, including seeing spots, blurred vision or light sensitivity
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased urine output
  • Sudden weight gain, typically more than 2 pounds (0.9 kilogram) a week
  • Swelling (edema), particularly in your face and hands

When to see a doctor?

Contact the office immediately or go to an emergency room if you have severe headaches, blurred vision or severe pain in your abdomen. If you are concerned about your symptoms, always contact your physician.

Are there any other high blood pressure conditions in pregnancy?

Gestational Hypertension- Women have high blood pressure but no protein in the urine. These women may develop preeclampsia if the high blood pressure persists, and this may require early delivery.

Chronic Hypertension- This category includes women who have been diagnosed with hypertension prior to pregnancy and women in who have elevated blood pressure before 20 weeks of pregnancy or lasts more than 12 weeks after delivery. In this second group of women, chronic hypertension was present, but not detected before pregnancy

Preeclampsia superimposed on chronic hypertension- This condition occurs in women who have chronic high blood pressure before pregnancy and then develop worsening high blood pressure before pregnancy who then develop worsening high blood pressure and protein in the urine during pregnancy.