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Preeclampsia: symptoms, causes, risks, and treatment

Preeclampsia, also known as toxaemia, is a serious pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure. It is marked by high blood pressure in pregnant women who did not have high blood pressure before pregnancy. If not taken care of, the condition can progress to eclampsia which can have serious and even fatal consequences.


The symptoms of preeclampsia usually begin to show after 20 weeks into pregnancy (though the symptoms may appear before in some cases). The symptoms of preeclampsia can be hard to identify at times. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Excess protein in the urine
  • Severe headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Changes in vision including temporary vision loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Reduced volume of urine
  • Sudden weight gain or swelling

The blood pressure may increase gradually over a period of time or may increase suddenly. In many cases, the symptoms are difficult to notice at first and hence, it is strongly recommended to regularly check the blood pressure.

What causes preeclampsia?

Though the exact cause of preeclampsia is not known, experts suggest that placenta may be the root cause of preeclampsia. At the start of pregnancy, new blood vessels develop to supply blood to placenta but in women suffering from preeclampsia, it has been found that the blood vessels do not develop properly. Genetic factors, insufficient blood flow to the uterus, poor nutrition and high body fat may contribute to the development of preeclampsia.  

Complications and risks:

Preeclampsia poses several health risks like:

  • HELLP (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count) syndrome, which is a severe form of preeclampsia and can become life-threatening to both the mother and the baby. HELLP syndrome may develop suddenly and it reflects damage to several organs. It results in vomiting, headache, and upper right abdominal pain and requires immediate treatment.
  • Preeclampsia may restrict fetal growth by reducing the blood flow to the placenta.
  • Preterm birth, which may lead to further complications like breathing problems in the baby.
  • Preeclampsia may lead to eclampsia, which is preeclampsia combined with seizures.
  • Preeclampsia also increases the risk of future cardiovascular diseases.

How is preeclampsia treated?

The only cure for preeclampsia is delivering the baby. The doctor will talk to you and decide when to deliver the baby depending on the severity of the condition, health of the baby in the womb, and other such factors. If the condition is mild and there is significant time left for the development of the baby and delivery, the doctor will closely monitor your health and may even prescribe medications to lower blood pressure. If the baby has developed enough (usually after 37 weeks), the doctor may suggest inducing labor and performing a cesarean section. The closer the estimated delivery time, the better it is for both the mother as well as the baby.

Cloudnine is one of the leading chains of pregnancy and maternity care hospitals in the country. Our highly diverse team of specialists and well-trained staff are highly experienced in handling pregnancy-related complications like preeclampsia. Our centres are well-equipped with all the modern facilities to provide you with the best possible treatment and care.

Want to consult the best gynecologists in India? Please find the links below.

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