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What pregnant women need to know about preeclampsia

Woman getting blood pressure taken by nurse
In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:

1. What is preeclampsia?
2. What are risk factors for developing preeclampsia?
3. What are early signs of preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a disorder that can occur during pregnancy in which a woman’s blood pressure will go up dangerously high, putting her and her baby’s health at risk. A new mom also could develop the condition up to six weeks after giving birth. It could happen even if she had normal blood pressure readings throughout her pregnancy, the birth and her hospital stay.

What is especially important for women to know is that you can feel fine despite having elevated blood pressure. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is often called “a silent killer.”


• If you are black. The preeclampsia rate is 50 percent higher for black women than women overall.
• If you had preeclampsia during a previous pregnancy or have had family members who had it.
• If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease or an autoimmune disease.
• If you are obese, meaning your body mass index (BMI) is more than 30.
• If this is your first pregnancy or you are pregnant with multiple children.


• Headaches that do not go away with over-the-counter Tylenol
• Stomach pains
• Shortness of breath
• Nausea
• Confusion
• Changes in vision
• Sudden weight gain
• Edema — the accumulation of excess fluid (swelling) around your face, your eyes or in your hands.

To diagnose preeclampsia, your doctor will check your blood pressure and test the proteins in your urine. Treatment will depend on the seriousness of your preeclampsia and your due date.

March of Dimes
American Pregnancy Association

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