Preeclampsia: What's Your Risk?

Preeclampsia is a serious, potentially life-threatening disorder in pregnancy or after childbirth. Caused by a surge in blood pressure, preeclampsia can cause damage to the mother’s organs, including the kidney and liver. Untreated, it can lead to seizures, a stroke or other brain injury.

Taking your blood pressure and testing your urine at prenatal checkups helps your healthcare provider monitor your risk for preeclampsia.

Many women who get preeclampsia in pregnancy have no obvious risk factors. But others do.

Women with the following conditions are at high risk for preeclampsia:

  • Chronic high blood pressure
  • Preeclampsia in a past pregnancy
  • Being pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets, etc.)
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • An autoimmune condition, such as lupus

Women with these factors are at moderate risk for preeclampsia:

  • First-time pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Family history of preeclampsia (mother or sister)
  • Over age 35

Preeclampsia can also lead to other serious conditions, such as eclampsia (which can result in seizures) or HELLP syndrome (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelets), which can damage your blood cells and cause internal bleeding).

Problems After Pregnancy?

Preeclampsia generally occurs in the third trimester of pregnancy, or after 20 weeks. It can also occur after childbirth, most often within 48 hours of delivery but sometimes up to 6 weeks or later after giving birth.

If you’ve been diagnosed with preeclampsia, keep in mind that you may be more likely to have other health problems later in life—when you are not pregnant. These include heart attack, stroke, kidney disease or high blood pressure.

Because of all of this, you may need to see your OB-GYN or other healthcare provider earlier or more often after childbirth so you can be monitored. Be sure to tell any future healthcare providers you may have that you had preeclampsia.

See also ...

Preeclampsia symptoms and treatment 

This message is not intended to provide individual medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have about your health or medical condition, your breastfeeding issues and your infant's health. Never disregard, avoid or delay contacting a doctor or other qualified professional because of something you have read in our emails, webpages or other electronic communications.

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