Preeclampsia and High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy - Topic Overview
Preeclampsia can be deadly for the mother and baby. It can
keep the baby from getting enough blood and oxygen. It also can harm the
kidneys, and brain. Women with very bad preeclampsia
can have dangerous seizures. This is called
What causes preeclampsia and high blood pressure during pregnancy?
Experts don't know the exact cause of preeclampsia and
high blood pressure during pregnancy. But they have some ideas about
- Preeclampsia seems to start because the
placenta doesn't grow the usual network of blood vessels deep in the wall of
the uterus. This leads to poor blood flow in the
- Preeclampsia may run in families. If your mother had
preeclampsia while she was pregnant with you, you have a higher chance of
getting it during pregnancy. You also have a higher chance of getting it if the
mother of your baby’s father had preeclampsia.
- The mother’s
immune system may react to the father's sperm, the
placenta, or the baby.
- Already having high blood pressure when you
get pregnant raises your chance of getting preeclampsia.
that can lead to high blood pressure, such as
polycystic ovary syndrome, and
diabetes, could raise your risk of
What are the symptoms?
High blood pressure
usually doesn't cause symptoms. But very high blood pressure sometimes causes
headaches and shortness of breath or changes in vision.
preeclampsia usually doesn't cause symptoms, either. But preeclampsia can cause
rapid weight gain and sudden swelling of the hands and face. Severe
preeclampsia causes symptoms of organ trouble, such as a very bad headache and
trouble seeing and breathing. It also can cause belly pain and decreased
How are high blood pressure and preeclampsia diagnosed?
High blood pressure and preeclampsia are usually found during a prenatal
visit. This is one reason why it’s so important to go to all of your prenatal
visits. You need to have your blood pressure checked often. During these
visits, your blood pressure is measured with a
blood pressure cuff . A sudden increase in blood pressure often is the first
sign of a problem.
You also will have a urine test to look for
protein, another sign of preeclampsia.
If you have high blood
pressure, tell your doctor right away if you have a headache or belly pain.
These signs of preeclampsia can occur before protein shows up in your
How are they treated?
Your doctor may have you
take medicine if he or she thinks your blood pressure is too high.
The only cure for preeclampsia is having the baby. You may get medicines
to lower your blood pressure and to prevent seizures. You also may get medicine
to help your baby’s lungs get ready for birth. Your doctor will try to deliver
your baby when the baby has grown enough to be ready for birth. But sometimes a
baby has to be delivered early to protect the health of the mother or the baby.
If this happens, your baby will get special care for premature babies.
Do preeclampsia and high blood pressure lead to long-term high blood pressure?