Preeclampsia is a serious disease related to high blood pressure that can strike fast [“eclampsia” is the Greek word for lightning]. It can happen to any pregnant woman during the second half of her pregnancy, or up to six weeks after delivery.
The term “preelampsia” includes related hypertensive disorders of pregnancy which may not be distinguishable from preeclampsia. Finding preeclampsia early is important for both mothers and their babies.
The facts about preeclampsia
- Affects up to 10% of pregnancies worldwide.
- A leading cause of maternal and infant death with 76 000 maternal and 500 000 infant deaths each year worldwide.
- Common factor in preterm delivery, accounts for 20% of all neonatal intensive care admissions.
- Risk of end-stage renal (kidney) disease in women with preeclampsia is 3 to 5 times higher than in women without preeclampsia.
- Over 99% of pregnancy-related deaths occur in low-to-middle income countries.
- Results in 16% of maternal deaths in low-to-middle income countries.
- Accounts for a quarter of maternal deaths in Latin America and one-tenth of maternal deaths in Africa and Asia
- Affects up to 6% of pregnancies in the postpartum
“Preeclampsia can happen to any pregnant woman during the second half of her pregnancy, or up to six weeks after delivery.”
Symptoms of preeclampsia
- Severe headache and chest pain that won’t go away even with medicine
- Swelling of the face and hands
- Weight gain of more than five pounds (± 2.27kg) in one week
- Difficulty breathing, with gasping or panting
- Nausea after mid-pregnancy
- Changes in vision (spots, light flashes or vision loss)
- Upper right belly pain
Risks of preeclampsia
For mom: seizures, water in the lungs and death
For baby: premature birth, low birth weight, stunting and death
What to do
- Talk to your healthcare provider before or early in your pregnancy about your risk for preeclampsia.
- Attend all your prenatal appointments.
- Monitor your blood pressure and weight regularly, and contact your healthcare provider immediately if either becomes unexpectedly high.
- Know your family history, especially for pregnancy, high blood pressure and heart disease.
- Eat right, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight.