Preeclampsia is high blood pressure (hypertension) during pregnancy accompanied by swelling and protein in the urine. In the US, this high-risk pregnancy complication occurs in about five percent of pregnancies. Preeclampsia usually begins after the 20th week of pregnancy. It can be fatal without treatment.
At Dignity Health, our doctors routinely screen for a variety of maternal conditions, including preeclampsia.
What Causes Preeclampsia?
Doctors aren’t sure what causes preeclampsia, but have identified many risk factors, including:
- Previous history of preeclampsia
- First time pregnancy
- History of blood clotting disorders, diabetes, or lupus
- History of kidney disease or high blood pressure
- Pregnancy over the age of 40
- Multiple gestation
Preeclampsia Symptoms to Watch
The main sign of preeclampsia is high blood pressure — blood pressure greater than 140/90.
Other signs of preeclampsia include:
- Too much protein in the urine
- Swelling in the face and hands
- Temporary loss of vision, blurred vision, or light sensitivity
- Upper abdominal pain
Diagnosis & Treatment for Preeclampsia
It’s not always possible to prevent preeclampsia, so it’s important to control risk factors as much as possible. If you have conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes before you become pregnant, this may mean taking medications or making lifestyle changes.
Because you can develop preeclampsia even if you don’t have any risk factors, our doctors carefully monitor your blood pressure and urine during pregnancy. The only cure for preeclampsia is delivery. If symptoms of preeclampsia start at or after 37 weeks of pregnancy, your doctor may recommend inducing labor. The symptoms of preeclampsia go away within six weeks of giving birth.
If you are not yet to 37 weeks of pregnancy, doctors will try to give your baby extra time to develop. If your health is at risk, the doctor will recommend immediate delivery, even if the baby is premature.
Women with moderate to severe preeclampsia should be admitted to a Dignity Health hospital for around-the-clock monitoring. Treatment may include:
- Steroid injections to speed up the baby’s lung development
- Intravenous (IV) fluids
- Medication to control blood pressure and prevent seizures
Trust your care team at Dignity Health to support your health at every stage of your pregnancy.