Preeclampsia

  • Alternative Names

    Toxemia; Pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH)


    Treatment

    The only way to cure preeclampsia is to deliver the baby.

    If your baby is developed enough (usually 37 weeks or later), your doctor may want your baby to be delivered so the preeclampsia does not get worse. You may receive different treatments to help trigger labor, or you may need a c-section.

    If your baby is not fully developed and you have mild preeclampsia, the disease can often be managed at home until your baby has a good chance of surviving after delivery. The doctor will probably recommend the following:

    • Getting bed rest at home, lying on your left side most or all of the time
    • Drinking extra glasses of water a day and eating less salt
    • Following-up with your doctor more often to make sure you and your baby are doing well
    • Taking medicines to lower your blood pressure (in some cases)

    Immediately call your doctor if you gain more weight or have new symptoms.

    In some cases, a pregnant woman with preeclampsia is admitted to the hospital so the health care team can more closely watch the baby and mother.

    Treatment may involve:

    • Medicines given into a vein to control blood pressure, as well as to prevent seizures and other complications
    • Steroid injections (after 24 weeks) to help speed up the development of the baby's lungs

    You and your doctor will continue to discuss the safest time to deliver your baby, considering:

    • How close you are to your due date. The further along you are in the pregnancy before you deliver, the better it is for your baby.
    • The severity of the preeclampsia. Preeclampsia has many severe complications that can harm the mother.
    • How well the baby is doing in the womb.

    The baby must be delivered if you have signs of severe preeclampsia, which include:

    • Tests (ultrasound, biophysical profile) that show your baby is not growing well or is not getting enough blood and oxygen
    • The bottom number of the mother's blood pressure is confirmed to be over 110 mmHg or is greater than 100 mmHg consistently over a 24-hour period
    • Abnormal liver function tests
    • Severe headaches
    • Pain in the belly area (abdomen)
    • Eclampsia
    • Fluid in the mother's lungs (pulmonary edema)
    • HELLP syndrome
    • Low platelet count (thrombocytopenia)
    • Decline in kidney function (low amount of urine, large amount of protein in the urine, increase in the level of creatinine in the blood)

    Support Groups


    Expectations (prognosis)

    Usually the high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and other effects of preeclampsia go away completely within 6 weeks after delivery. However, sometimes the high blood pressure will get worse in the first several days after delivery.

    A woman with a history of preeclampsia is at risk for the condition again during future pregnancies. Often, it is not as severe in later pregnancies.

    Women who have high blood pressure problems during more than one pregnancy have an increased risk for high blood pressure when they get older.

    Death of the mother due to preeclampsia is rare in the U.S. The infant's risk of death depends on the severity of the preeclampsia and how prematurely the baby is born.


    Complications

    Preeclampsia can develop into eclampsia if the mother has seizures. Complications in the baby can occur if the baby is delivered prematurely.

    There can be other severe complications for the mother, including:

    • Bleeding problems
    • Premature separation of the placenta from the uterus before the baby is born (placental abruption)
    • Rupture of the liver
    • Stroke
    • Death (rarely)

    However, these complications are unusual.

    Severe preeclampsia may lead to HELLP syndrome.


    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of preeclampsia during your pregnancy.