• Definition

    Eclampsia is seizures (convulsions) in a pregnant woman that are not related to a preexisting brain condition.

    See also: Preeclampsia

    Alternative Names

    Toxemia with seizures

    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    The cause of eclampsia is not well understood. Researchers believe the following may play a role:

    • Blood vessels
    • Brain and nervous system (neurological) factors
    • Diet
    • Genes

    However, no theories have yet been proven.

    Eclampsia follows preeclampsia, a serious complication of pregnancy that includes high blood pressure and excess and rapid weight gain.

    It is difficult to predict which women with preeclampsia will go on to have seizures. Women at high risk for seizures have severe preeclampsia and:

    • Abnormal blood tests
    • Headaches
    • Very high blood pressure
    • Vision changes

    Eclampsia occurs in about 1 out of every 2,000 to 3,000 pregnancies. The following increase a woman's chance for getting preeclampsia:

    • Being 35 or older
    • Being African American
    • First pregnancy
    • History of diabetes, high blood pressure, or kidney (renal) disease
    • Multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets, etc.)
    • Teenage pregnancy