Although gestational hypertension is the most common sign of preeclampsia, preeclampsia is a serious medical condition affecting all organs of the body. For example, preeclampsia causes stress on the kidneys, which results in increased amounts of protein in the woman's urine. Other signs of preeclampsia may include:
The risk of developing preeclampsia is increased in women who:
- Visual problems
- Rapid weight gain
- Swelling (edema) of the hands and face
- Are pregnant for the first time
- Have had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy
- Have a history of chronic hypertension
- Are 35 years or older
- Are carrying more than 1 fetus
- Have certain medical conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease
- Are obese
- Have certain immune disorders, such as lupus, or blood diseases
A woman with preeclampsia may need to stay in the hospital so that she and her baby can be monitored. In some cases, her baby may need to be delivered early. When preeclampsia becomes severe, the woman's organs can be damaged, including the kidneys, liver, brain, heart, and eyes. In some cases, seizures will occur. This is called eclampsia.
Preeclampsia is a very serious illness for both the woman and baby. Severe preeclampsia may require early delivery, even if the baby is not fully grown. If a baby is born prematurely, it may have complications. In severe cases, the woman, baby, or both may die.
At each prenatal visit, a woman's weight, blood pressure, and a urine sample (to check for protein) are taken. This helps detect any changes that might have occurred. Once the doctor is aware that a woman's blood pressure is high, she may be checked more often.