Is Preeclampsia Dangerous?

Preeclampsia is a Serious Condition That Must Treated

Preeclampsia can cause high blood pressure.
Preeclampsia can cause high blood pressure. Hero Images/Getty Images

Question: Is Preeclampsia Dangerous?

Answer: Preeclampsia is a serious condition that must be monitored and treated to avoid complications. While preeclampsia affects only about five to eight percent of pregnancies in the United States, it is one of the top three causes of maternal death. About one out of 100,000 pregnant women die after having some form of complications from this disease.

In general, mild preeclampsia is rarely complicated, and both the mother and the baby tend to do fine.

Some studies have suggested that, overall, outcomes in cases of mild preeclampsia are about the same as those in a normal pregnancy. The difference is that women with preeclampsia are more likely to have a labor induction.

Severe preeclampsia is different. In contrast to mild preeclampsia, severe preeclampsia has been shown to be associated with numerous possible negative outcomes.

Causes of Preeclampsia:

  • A problem with the immune system
  • Certain genes
  • Insufficient blood flow to the uterus

  • Damage to the blood vessels

Common Problems Associated with Severe Preeclampsia are:

Symptoms of Preeclampsia include:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Decreased urine output
  • Excess protein in your urine
  • Severe headaches
  • Changes in vision
  • Upper abdominal pain, usually under your ribs on the right side
  • Decreased levels of platelets in your blood
  • Impaired liver function
  • Shortness of breath, caused by fluid in your lungs
  • Sudden weight gain and swelling (edema)

Risk Factors for Preeclampsia:

  • Family history of preeclampsia
  • First pregnancy
  • New paternity
  • Over 40 years old
  • Obesity
  • Multiple pregnancy
  • Very Short or Long Intervals Between Pregnancies
  • History of certain conditions such as migraines, high blood pressure or kidney disease

It is important to note that studies have not shown any overall increase in the risk of fetal (not yet born) or neonatal (just born) death, as long as the baby is born at normal term. If born early, the baby is subject to the same risks as any premature infant.

Following a successful delivery, preeclampsia symptoms tend to resolve within a few days. Sometimes, though, it may take as long as several weeks, and patients may have to be sent home with some kind of high blood pressure medicine.

Learn More About Preeclampsia:


MacKay, AP., et al. Pregnancy-related mortality from preeclampsia and eclampsia. Obstetrics & Gynecology. 97(4):533-8.

Hauth, JC., et al. Pregnancy outcomes in healthy nulliparas who developed hypertension. Calcium for Preeclampsia Prevention Study Group.Obstetrics & Gynecology. 95(1):24-8.

Mayor Clinic,, Preeclampsia

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