Skip to content

Health & Pregnancy

Font Size

Eclampsia (Seizures) and Preeclampsia - Topic Overview

Eclampsia is pregnancy-related seizure activity that is caused by severe preeclampsia. Less than 1% of women who have preeclampsia experience seizures.1 Eclampsia is life-threatening for both a mother and her fetus. During a seizure, the oxygen supply to the fetus is drastically reduced.

Sudden seizures can occur before, during, or (rarely) up to 6 weeks after delivery (postpartum). Postpartum seizures are most common during the first 48 hours after delivery.

If you have eclampsia, your doctor will give you medicine (such as magnesium sulfate) to prevent a seizure from happening again and to control your blood pressure. The doctor will wait until your health is stable before delivering your baby.

What happens during a seizure

A woman with eclampsia has a type of seizure called a grand mal seizure, which begins with a sudden loss of consciousness.

  • During the first 15 to 30 seconds of a seizure, the entire body stiffens as the muscles contract. The back and neck arch. The woman may cry out as the vocal cords contract or may turn blue if she is having difficulty breathing.
  • During the next 30 to 45 seconds, the muscles jerk, or convulse, in a rhythmic pattern. While the muscles are jerking, the woman may bite her tongue or lose bladder or bowel control.
  • An entire seizure lasts 1 to 2 minutes or longer. After the seizure, the woman will be unresponsive at first but will gradually wake up within 10 to 15 minutes. She may be sleepy, confused, or dazed. She may also feel tired, weak, or moody and may have a headache and muscle aches for the next 24 hours.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 05, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Eclampsia (Seizures) and Preeclampsia Topics

    Pregnancy Week-By-Week Newsletter

    Delivered right to your inbox, get pictures and facts on
    what to expect each week of your pregnancy.

    Today on WebMD

    hand circling date on calendar
    Track your most fertile days.
    woman looking at ultrasound
    Week-by-week pregnancy guide.
     
    Pretty pregnant woman timing contaction pains
    The signs to watch out for.
    pregnant woman in hospital
    Are there ways to do it naturally?
     
    slideshow fetal development
    Slideshow
    pregnancy first trimester warning signs
    Article
     
    What Causes Bipolar
    Video
    Woman trying on dress in store
    Slideshow
     
    pregnant woman
    Article
    Close up on eyes of baby breastfeeding
    Video
     
    healthtool pregnancy calendar
    Tool
    eddleman prepare your body pregnancy
    Video