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What you should know about preeclampsia

Preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous pregnancy complication, is a fairly common condition that affects about five percent of pregnancies in the US. The disorder involves high blood pressure, swelling, and protein in the urine. Preeclampsia can be fatal if not treated or monitored.

If you are pregnant or considering pregnancy, the doctors, nurses, and staff at Dignity Health are committed to your well-being. Find a Doctor to have an important conversation about controlling your risk factors for preeclampsia.


How to recognize preeclampsia symptoms

Be on the lookout for the following symptoms of preeclampsia during your pregnancy:

  • High blood pressure — readings greater than 140/90
  • Swelling in the hands and face
  • Too much protein in the urine
  • Temporary loss of vision, blurred vision, or light sensitivity
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Headaches

See your Dignity Health doctor if you develop signs of preeclampsia.


What causes preeclampsia?

The exact causes of preeclampsia are unknown. However, many risk factors that increase the likelihood of preeclampsia have been identified, including:

  • History of blood pressure or kidney disease
  • History of diabetes, lupus, or blood clotting disorders
  • Previous occurrence of preeclampsia
  • First time pregnancy
  • Multiple gestation
  • Age over 40
  • Obesity

If any of these risk factors apply to you, discuss them with your doctor before or during the early stages of your pregnancy.


Preeclampsia treatment

It is important to identify your risk factors for preeclampsia and know what you can do to control them. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, for example, following your prescribed treatment plan can lower your risk of developing preeclampsia. 

There is no cure for preeclampsia, aside from giving birth. Because the condition can be fatal, you may be asked to consider the risks of continuing your pregnancy against the risks of an early delivery. 

If you are diagnosed with preeclampsia at or after 37 weeks of pregnancy, your doctor may recommend artificially inducing labor and birth. If the diagnosis is made before the 37th week of gestation, our doctors usually recommend monitoring your condition while giving your baby more time to develop in the womb.

Moderate to severe preeclampsia requires hospitalization for around-the-clock monitoring. Treatment may include intravenous fluids, medicine to control blood pressure and prevent seizures, and steroid injections to speed up the baby’s lung development. If your condition worsens and becomes life threatening, your doctor will recommend immediate delivery, even if your baby is premature.

If you must make the difficult choice to deliver preterm, Dignity Health is here to help you through the process. Learn about the comprehensive care our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) provides for infants born at or before 32 weeks of gestation:

Dignity Health Central California provides expert treatment of preeclampsia in Bakersfield, Merced, and Stockton, CA.

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