What is pre-eclampsia?


What is pre-eclampsia?

Pre-eclampsia is a dangerous condition that occurs in 5 to 8% of all pregnancies, and is characterised by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in the urine.

Why is pre-eclampsia dangerous?

Elevated blood pressure associated with pre-eclampsia can reduce the supply of blood to many of your organs, including the placenta, which can deprive your baby of essential oxygen and nutrients, which in turn can cause placental abruption, low amniotic fluid levels, and poor foetal growth.

Symptoms and signs:

Pre-eclampsia usually occurs after the 20th week of the pregnancy and symptoms include:

  • swelling,
  • sudden weight gain,
  • headaches,
  • changes in vision.

However, some women with rapidly advancing pre-eclampsia have few or very mild symptoms.

What is the cause and who is at risk?

  • The precise cause is not known.
  • It often occurs in women:
    • Carrying multiple babies,
    • Family history of pre-eclampsia
    • Obese women,
    • Women with chronic hypertension or certain blood clotting disorders

How can you be tested for pre-eclampsia?

There is no actual test for pre-eclampsia. Your doctor will check for signs for pre-eclampsia at every antenatal visit by:

  • Blood pressure checks
  • Weight gain
  • Signs of protein in your urine
  • Severe swelling


  • Treatment depends on the severity of your pre-eclampsia.
  • The only “cure” for pre-eclampsia is the delivery of your baby. If it is too early to deliver your baby safely, your doctor will probably prescribe:
    • Bedrest
    • Plenty of fluids
    • Medication to lower blood pressure

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