Preeclampsia is the most common complication that can develop during your pregnancy. A dangerous situation can arise from it and therefore, if detected, you should address it promptly.

Even you can feel its presence from its symptoms. Certain warning signs will reveal its onset. However, sometimes it can come on without any symptoms. It is then detected during routine prenatal screening.

Preeclampsia can cause further complications, but if you take proper treatment it can be controlled.

It is a visitor that stays throughout your pregnancy and will go away only after your delivery. Treatment only aims to control its signs and symptoms.

Formerly, it was referred to as toxemia because it was believed that certain pregnancy toxins were responsible for it. That theory, however, has been disproved.

Preeclampsia, if ignored, can herald the onset of eclampsia, a more serious disorder that can more likely be fatal for the baby and the mother. Eclampsia is characterized by albuminuria, hypertension, and convulsions. Every time the mother suffers a convulsion or seizure, the baby suffers a loss of oxygen supply, which can affect the development and brain of the baby.

You can say that preeclampsia can be a precursor of eclampsia and eclampsia comes from the Greek word “eklampsis”, which means sudden flashing referring to the sudden onset of seizures.,

Medical Definition

Preeclampsia is a condition or more of a disorder that develops during pregnancy, characterized by the development of high blood pressure in a pregnant woman, who was previously non-hypertensive. It occurs in 5 to 8 percent of pregnancies worldwide.

The parameters of this condition require that the systolic pressure is more than 140 mm of Hg and the diastolic pressure be more than 90 mm of Hg on two occasions measured more than 4 hours apart.

Preeclampsia is defined as severe if the systolic blood pressure is >160 mm Hg or the diastolic pressure is 110 or more mm Hg. Again, another feature to classify preeclampsia as severe is the onset of the HELLP syndrome, a life-threatening variant or complication of preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia usually develops late in the second trimester after 20 weeks into pregnancy. Its other main signs include the presence of protein in the urine (proteinuria ≥0.3 g/day)) and edema (swelling) 0f the hands, feet and the legs. Proteinuria often indicates that the kidneys are not functioning properly.

According to the International Society for the Study of Hypertension in Pregnancy (ISSHP), most investigators of research considered early-onset preeclampsia as that occurring before 34weeks.

However, according to new guidelines laid down by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), though protein is present in urine in most cases, it is not necessary for the diagnosis of this condition. Preeclampsia affects most body systems and presence of organ dysfunction may be more pertinent to help in finalizing the diagnosis.

It is necessary to diagnose this condition early because If undiagnosed and left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to eclampsia, a more serious condition characterized by the onset of seizures. It is a serious risk factor for the mother and the baby.

However, because women with preeclampsia are closely monitored, such patients rarely die of this condition.

Preeclampsia can affect the mother during pregnancy and labor, and it can cause neonatal and fetal complications. 

Therefore, pregnant women are closely monitored for any preeclampsia causes that the mother may be associated with, and for any risk factors that can make her prone.


Preeclampsia affects 5% to 10% of pregnancies worldwide. The rates, however, are lower in the United States at about 3% to 5%.

Its incidence ranges from 3% to 7% for first-time pregnancies (nulliparas) and 1% to 3% for women who are into second or further pregnancies (multiparas).

It accounts for 40% to 60% of maternal deaths in the developing countries. Nearly one-tenth of maternal deaths in Asia and Africa and one-fourth of maternal deaths in Latin America are associated with hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.

Among the hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, pre-eclampsia and eclampsia have the greatest impact on the morbidity and mortality of the mother and the newborn. And yet, the majority of these deaths can be avoided if the pregnant woman received timely and effective medical care.

Since the early nineties, the prevalence of preeclampsia in the United States has increased due to the increased incidence of diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.

Preeclampsia and other related pregnancy hypertensive disorders affect 5-8% of all births in the United States.

Complications relating to high blood pressure during pregnancy are the second leading cause of stillbirths and early neonatal deaths in the developing nations.

Preeclampsia onset and Lifespan

Preeclampsia mostly comes on during the second half of pregnancy in the second or third trimester, usually after 20 weeks. It normally resolves within 48 hours after delivery.

However, variations do occur. It can appear at any time during pregnancy. An early onset is associated with a bad outcome.

It can come on during delivery and even up to six weeks postpartum.

Postpartum preeclampsia is a rare condition. Most of such cases develop within 48 hours of childbirth.

Sometimes, it develops up to six weeks after delivery. This is known as late postpartum preeclampsia.