A doctor uses a blood pressure cuff to measure a pregnant woman's blood pressure

Preeclampsia: What Expectant Mothers Need to Know

Pregnancy is a joyous, yet probably somewhat uncomfortable, period of change in your life. As your body adjusts to nurture your growing child, you might notice some less-than-welcome changes. One of these might be the onset of a blood pressure disorder known as preeclampsia. Learn more about this condition and how to keep you and your baby healthy.  

What Is Preeclampsia?

Occurring in up to 10% of pregnancies, preeclampsia is an abnormally high blood pressure that affects women later in their pregnancy, starting around week 20. While the majority of cases begin during pregnancy, there is the possibility of developing postpartum preeclampsia, which begins 24-48 hours after giving birth.

Preeclampsia typically goes away within six weeks of giving birth, so scheduling a follow-up appointment with your doctor is necessary for determining whether your blood pressure is back within a safe range.

What Are the Signs of Preeclampsia?

To make a diagnosis, your doctor will look for a variety of symptoms and perform blood and urine tests. If you notice any of the following during your pregnancy, make note of them and schedule an appointment with your doctor:

  • Swelling of the face, eyes, or hands
  • Significant weight gain in two days’ time
  • Infrequent urination
  • Dark urine

Some symptoms can be signs that your preeclampsia is severe and immediate medical treatment is necessary. If you experience any of the following symptoms, go to your nearest emergency room:

  • Pain under the right ribs or in the right shoulder
  • Changes in vision
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Breathing issues
  • Severe headache
  • Lightheadedness

How Can Preeclampsia Affect Your Pregnancy?

With proper treatment, you can have a healthy pregnancy. However, untreated preeclampsia can leave your baby without an adequate supply of oxygenated blood, which can hinder their development. In addition, your own organs might not get the right amount of blood and oxygen, which can lead to permanent damage.

Whether you’re pregnant and beginning to notice some symptoms of preeclampsia or you’re hoping to start a family and have pre-existing hypertension, schedule an appointment with your OB/GYN. If you notice any severe symptoms, call 911 or seek immediate medical attention. St. Luke’s Health emergency rooms are open 24/7 and equipped to handle any emergency. Find your nearest location today.

Medline Plus | Preeclampsia
What to Expect | Preeclampsia: Symptoms, Risk Factors and Treatment

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