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Preeclampsia prevention

Preeclampsia is a relatively common condition in pregnancy. It is new-onset high blood pressure after 20 weeks of gestation.

Who is at risk

History of preeclampsia. A personal or family history of preeclampsia significantly raises your risk of preeclampsia.

  • History of high blood pressure
  • First pregnancy
  • Each pregnancy with a new partner increases the risk of preeclampsia more than does a second or third pregnancy with the same partner
  • Very young pregnant women or pregnant women older than 40
  • Carrying more than one baby
  • Having babies less than two years or more than 10 years apart
  • Having certain conditions before you become pregnant — such as chronic high blood pressure, migraines, type 1 or type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, a tendency to develop blood clots, or lupus
  • In vitro fertilization

Symptoms

Other signs and symptoms of preeclampsia may include:

  • Excess protein in your urine (proteinuria) or additional signs of kidney problems
  • Severe headaches
  • Changes in vision, including temporary loss of vision, blurred vision or light sensitivity
  • Upper abdominal pain, usually under your ribs on the right side
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Decreased urine output
  • Decreased levels of platelets in your blood (thrombocytopenia)
  • Impaired liver function
  • Shortness of breath caused by fluid in your lungs

What you can do

  • Make sure you attend your prenatal visits so that your care provider can monitor your blood pressure.
  • Talk to your doctor about low-dose aspirin and calcium supplements.

Preventive service at no cost

Pregnant woman

The USPSTF recommends screening for preeclampsia in pregnant women with blood pressure measurements throughout pregnancy.


Why screening is important

It can quickly change into a severe disease that can result in serious, even fatal health outcomes for the mother and baby.

Many of the complications associated with preeclampsia lead to early induction of labor or cesarean delivery and subsequent preterm birth. Preeclampsia can cause premature births or still birth.

It may also lead to other serious complications for the mother, including stroke, seizure, and organ failure.

What the screening is

Blood pressure measurements are taken during each prenatal care visit throughout pregnancy. If a patient has an elevated blood pressure reading, the reading should be confirmed with repeated measurements.

Treatment

If your baby has developed enough, usually by 37 weeks or later, your doctor may want to induce labor or perform a cesarean section. This is will keep preeclampsia from getting worse.

If your baby is not close to term, you and your doctor may be able to treat preeclampsia until your baby has developed enough to be safely delivered. The closer the birth is to your due date, the better for your baby.

If you have preeclampsia with and without severe features, your doctor may prescribe:

  • Bed rest either at home or in the hospital; you'll be asked to rest mostly on your left side
  • Careful observation with a fetal heart rate monitor and frequent ultrasounds
  • Medicines to lower your blood pressure
  • Blood and urine tests

Treatments for Preeclampsia, Eclampsia & HELLP Syndrome

Additional tips

  • Drink between 6 and 8 glasses of water every day
  • Avoid fried or processed food
  • Don’t add salt
  • Exercise
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Keep your feet elevated a few times per day
  • Rest
  • Take supplements and medications as prescribed by your doctor

Additional resources