Pre-eclampsia is a problem that occurs in some women during pregnancy. Blood pressure increases and protein appears in the urine. This usually occurs during the second half of pregnancy.
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The cause of pre-eclampsia is unknown. Possible causes may include:
Factors that increase your chance of getting pre-eclampsia include:
Your doctor will look for the following signs:
Women with pre-eclampsia may have symptoms or they may feel fine, especially if the pre-eclampsia is mild. It is important to see your doctor regularly during pregnancy to detect problems early.
Symptoms may include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include:
A blood pressure reading of 140/90 or higher is considered too high whether or not a woman is pregnant. During pregnancy, blood pressure in the third trimester is compared with blood pressure before pregnancy or during the beginning of the second trimester. Blood pressure is elevated during pregnancy if:
Sometimes, fluid retention is obvious during the physical exam. Fluid retention may cause weight gain of more than five pounds in one week. Sudden weight gain over one or two days is almost certainly due to fluid retention.
Under normal circumstances, there is no or minimal measurable protein in urine. In pre-eclampsia, significant amounts of protein usually appear in the urine.
Blood tests include checking:
Treating pre-eclampsia early can prevent its progression to eclampsia, which are seizures caused by severe pre-eclampsia. The only way to cure pre-eclampsia is to deliver the baby.
Treatment may include:
If the pregnancy has progressed 36 weeks or more, your doctor may recommend that labor be induced.
Mild pre-eclampsia can often be managed with rest and medicine until 36 weeks gestation. For example, your doctor may recommend that you take:
If your home situation is stable and you live close to the hospital, your doctor may recommend that you rest at home in a quiet environment. Home treatment may include:
If pre-eclampsia is moderate or your home situation is not restful, the doctor may admit you to the hospital. Treatment may include:
If the pre-eclampsia is severe, labor may be induced as early as 28 weeks. Early delivery poses a risk to the fetus, but allowing severe pre-eclampsia to continue is extremely risky for the mother and fetus. If possible, the doctor will delay delivery up to 48 hours so that the mother can take medicines to help the baby's lungs mature.
Most women with pre-eclampsia still deliver healthy babies. A few develop eclampsia, in which seizures, caused by severe pre-eclampsia, occur. Fortunately, pre-eclampsia is usually detected early in women who get regular prenatal care, and most seizures can be prevented.
There are no reliable guidelines to prevent this condition. However, the following actions may help prevent pre-eclampsia or other problems related to pregnancy:
American Academy of Family Physicians
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
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7/6/2006 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Villar J, Abdel-Aleem H, Merialdi M, et al. World Health Organization randomized trial of calcium supplementation among low calcium intake pregnant women. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006;194:639-649.
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8/6/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Bujold E, Roberge S, Lacasse Y, et al. Prevention of preeclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction with aspirin started in early pregnancy: a meta-analysis. Obstet Gynecol. 2010;116(2 Pt 1):402-14.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Andrea Chisholm
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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