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Preeclampsia, or high blood pressure during pregnancy, is also known as "pregnancy-induced hypertension" (PIH). It can occur anytime after the 20th week of pregnancy, but usually occurs close to your due date and will not go away until after birth.

PIH frequently causes kidney problems, such as protein in the urine. In that case, the condition is called preeclampsia.

Nobody knows the cause of preeclampsia. Women with preeclampsia can have many different signs and symptoms. Preeclampsia can be difficult to diagnose. Additional monitoring and lab tests can be useful.

Because the only cure for preeclampsia is delivery, you may have to be delivered earlier than your due date.

Groups at risk for preeclampsia

Symptoms and complications

  • The most common symptoms are swelling of the hands, feet or face, and protein in your urine. You may also experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, changes in vision, and pain in the upper abdomen.
  • The baby may not get enough oxygen and nutrients, which can decrease the baby's growth.
  • Some women develop HELLP syndrome (Hemolysis, Elevated Liver enzymes, Low Platelets). These women may have pain in their abdomens due to swollen livers. This condition destroys red blood cells and can cause bleeding. Patients are usually hospitalized or are scheduled for an early delivery.
  • The most severe cases cause maternal seizures or death.
Birth issues
  • The more severe the case, the earlier you may need to deliver.
  • You may be given magnesium sulfate to prevent seizures. It does not treat the disease, however. You will usually need to keep taking it for 24 hours after delivery, because the period during and just after delivery are when seizures most often occur.

Call your doctor or midwife if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • Constant dull pain in the back or side, just below the ribs
  • Frequent, severe headaches
  • Visual disturbances, especially blurring, dimness, spots or double images
  • Swelling or puffiness of the face (especially around the eyes) or hands, or excessive, continuous swelling of the feet or ankles
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