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 reprinted with permission from the Preeclampsia Foundation

What is Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia affects 6 million women every year worldwide.

76,000 of them DIE.

The number of babies who don’t survive this disorder is closer to half a million.

Preeclampsia is one of the oldest disorders on record, yet still no cure exists.  The name is derived from the Greek word “eclampsia” meaning a flash of light. Oftentimes, vision disorders such as flashes of light are experienced as blood pressure rises.

Preeclampsia occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period and affects both the mother and the unborn baby. Affecting at least 5-8% of all pregnancies, it is a rapidly progressive condition characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine. Swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision are important symptoms; however, some women with rapidly advancing disease report few symptoms. Preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are a leading global cause of maternal and infant illness and death. Although delivery of the fetus is believed to stop the symptoms of preeclampsia, most maternal deaths occur after delivery.

Typically, preeclampsia occurs after 20 weeks gestation (in the late 2nd or 3rd trimesters or middle to late pregnancy), though it can occur earlier. Proper prenatal care is essential to diagnose and manage preeclampsia. Preeclampsia, Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH) and toxemia are closely related conditions. HELLP Syndrome and eclampsia are other manifestations of the same syndrome. It is important to note that research shows that more women die from preeclampsia than eclampsia and one is not necessarily more serious than the other.

If you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or know someone who is, please watch for and share the risk factors listed below. If at all possible, try to enter into pregnancy with healthy blood pressure and protein-free urine. Also, even a 5-pound weight loss prior to pregnancy can help reduce your chances of developing preeclampsia. Click here to learn how to watch for the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia Risk Factors
- Multiple pregnancies
- Obesity and primigravidity
- Medical history of chronic high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disorder
- Pre-existing hypertension, diabetes, connective tissue disease – such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus – or kidney disease
- Pregnancy in early teens or past 40



The Preeclampsia Puzzle (.pdf)

Click here for the Preeclampsia Foundation’s fact sheet (.pdf) on the disease.

Expectant mothers, please click here for some recently published resources regarding preeclampsia.