Pre-eclampsia

This condition occurs only in pregnancy and affects one in every ten pregnancies. Most cases are mild, but some (about one first pregnancy in every 100) are dangerous for the baby and the mother.

If you have severe pre-eclampsia or eclampsia, your labour may be induced, even though this may mean a preterm delivery. The condition is called ‘pre’ (before) eclampsia because, if it is not treated or is treated too late, it can develop into eclampsia, a rare but serious complication with seizures or fits. However, eclampsia is not the only serious complication of pre-eclampsia; you may also develop problems with your liver, lungs, kidneys, brain or blood-clotting system.

Some of the signs and symptoms of pre-eclampsia are:

  • rising blood pressure in mid to late pregnancy
  • protein in the urine
  • severe oedema (swelling) due to fluid retention in the ankles, fingers or face
  • headaches/visual disturbances
  • severe pain just below the ribs
  • poor growth of the baby.

Routine antenatal checking of your blood pressure and your urine is done mainly to watch out for pre-eclampsia.

The causes of pre-eclampsia and high blood pressure are not fully understood, and the links between the main signs are still very unclear. If you have any of the signs or any concerns speak to your midwife immediately.

Last Updated: 27 October 2010
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