Pre-eclampsia and Eclampsia: Causes and Treatments
Signs and Symptoms of Pre-Eclampsia and Eclampsia
Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia are forms of high blood pressure that occur
during pregnancy and are accompanied by protein in the urine and edema
(swelling). As the names suggest, these two disorders are related.
Pre-eclampsia, sometimes called toxemia of pregnancy, may develop into the more
severe eclampsia, which is pre-eclampsia together with seizure. These
conditions usually develop during the second half of pregnancy (after 20
weeks), though sometimes they develop shortly after birth, and, in very rare
situations, they occur before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
You are at increased risk of developing pre-eclampsia if:
- This is your first pregnancy.
- Your mother or sister had pre-eclampsia or eclampsia during pregnancy.
- You are carrying more than one baby.
- You are a teenager.
- You are over 40 years old.
- You already have high blood pressure, kidney disease or diabetes.
- You are a smoker.
- You are obese.
- You suffer from malnutrition.
- You carry a baby with so-called "non-immune hydrops."
If you are pregnant, increasing blood pressure may not make you feel
different until it is dangerously high. So you should watch for signs of
pre-eclampsia. If you develop pre-eclampsia, the first thing you notice may be
rapid weight gain, on the order of two to five pounds in a single week. Many
pregnant women have swelling of their feet or legs; however, swelling of your
face or arms may be a sign of pre-eclampsia. If pre-eclampsia progresses from
mild to moderate or severe, you may begin to notice other symptoms. Headache,
vision changes and abdominal pain should prompt concern.
It is dangerous to allow blood pressure to stay high during pregnancy. High
blood pressure may interfere with the placenta's ability to deliver oxygen and
nutrition to your fetus, so your baby may be born weighing less than normal and
may have other health problems. If your blood pressure continues to get higher
and higher, your kidneys may have trouble functioning. You may have changes in
the makeup of your blood, such as destruction of red blood cells (causing
anemia), disturbed liver function, and decreased platelets (blood cells
involved in clotting). Too few platelets can increase your risk of bleeding
uncontrollably during delivery or even spontaneously. Your blood pressure may
continue to climb, and you may develop seizures.
Once you begin to have seizures, you are considered to have eclampsia. This
is a life-threatening situation for both you and your baby. During a seizure,
you and your baby are at risk of being deprived of oxygen. In addition, the
high blood pressure may cause the placenta to begin to separate from the wall
of the uterus (called abruptio placentae). This can cause severe bleeding and
death of the fetus and possibly the mother.
- Rapid weight gain
- Swelling of the arms or face
- Changes in vision (blurred vision, seeing double, seeing spots of
- Dizziness, faintness
- Ringing in the ears
- Abdominal pain
- Decreased production of urine
- Nausea, vomiting
- Blood in vomit or urine