Preeclampsia

  • Alternative Names

    Toxemia; Pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH)


    Symptoms

    Often, women who are diagnosed with preeclampsia do not feel sick.

    Symptoms of preeclampsia can include:

    • Swelling of the hands and face/eyes (edema)
    • Weight gain
      • More than 2 pounds per week
      • Sudden weight gain over 1 - 2 days

    Note: Some swelling of the feet and ankles is considered normal with pregnancy.

    Symptoms of more severe preeclampsia:

    • Headaches that are dull or throbbing and will not go away
    • Abdominal pain, mostly felt on the right side, underneath the ribs. Pain may also be felt in the right shoulder, and can be confused with heartburn, gallbladder pain, a stomach virus, or the baby kicking
    • Agitation
    • Decreased urine output, not urinating very often
    • Nausea and vomiting (worrisome sign)
    • Vision changes -- temporary loss of vision, sensations of flashing lights, auras, light sensitivity, spots, and blurry vision

    Signs and tests

    The doctor will perform a physical exam and order laboratory tests. Signs of preclampsia include:

    • High blood pressure, usually higher than 140/90 mm/Hg
    • Protein in the urine (proteinuria)

    The physical exam may also reveal:

    • Swelling in the hands and face
    • Weight gain

    Blood and urine tests will be done. Abnormal results include:

    • Protein in the urine (proteinuria)
    • Higher-than-normal liver enzymes
    • Platelet count less than 100,000 (thrombocytopenia)

    Your doctor will also order tests to see how well your blood clots, and to monitor the health of the baby. Tests to monitor the baby's well-being include pregnancy ultrasound, non-stress test, and a biophysical profile. The results of these tests will help your doctor decide whether your baby needs to be delivered immediately.

    Women who began their pregnancy with very low blood pressure, but had a significant rise in blood pressure need to be watched closely for other signs of preeclampsia.