About This Condition
Preeclampsia is defined as the combination of high blood pressure (hypertension), swelling (edema), and protein in the urine (albuminuria, proteinuria) developing after the 20th week of pregnancy.1 Preeclampsia ranges in severity from mild to severe; the mild form is sometimes called proteinuric pregnancy-induced hypertension2 or proteinuric gestational hypertension.3
Women with even mild preeclampsia must be monitored carefully by a healthcare professional. Hospitalization may be necessary to enable close observation.4
The cause of preeclampsia is unknown, although several factors have been shown to contribute.1,6 Preeclampsia is more common in women during their first pregnancy,7 as well as in women who are obese,7,9 who have diabetes,10 or who have gestational hypertension.11,1,9 Women who have had preeclampsia during a previous pregnancy are also at increased risk.1 Preeclampsia has also been associated with calcium deficiencies,15antioxidant deficiencies,16,17,18 older maternal age,19 and job stress.20,21,7
Symptoms, which typically appear after the 20th week of pregnancy, include swelling of the face and hands, visual disturbances, headache, and high blood pressure. In severe preeclampsia, symptoms are more pronounced. Jaundice may also be present. Severe preeclampsia may lead to seizures (eclampsia) and may cause death to both mother and fetus if left untreated.17 Like eclampsia, severe preeclampsia is a medical emergency requiring hospitalization.18,19
Other treatment for preeclampsia includes strict bed rest, maintenance of normal salt intake, intravenous magnesium sulfate, and possibly hospitalization for observation. The definitive conventional treatment of preeclampsia is induced delivery or cesarean section.