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Preeclampsia, also known as Toxemia or pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH), is high blood pressure or protein in the urine during pregnancy. This usually occurs in the late second to early third trimester of a pregnancy.


The causes of preeclampsia are still unknown; however, probable causes consist of autoimmune disorders, blood vessel problems, diet, and genetics.

Who is At Risk:

Preeclampsia is more common in first-time pregnant women over the age of 35. Preeclampsia is also a risk factor for women who are obese, having twins, or have any history of diabetes, blood pressure, or kidney disease.


Women who suffer from preeclampsia generally do not feel sick, but do experience swelling of the hands and face, and rapid weight gain of two or more pounds per week. Other symptoms include constant headaches, decrease in urges to urinate, nausea, blurred vision, and abdominal pain.

Routine Exam:

Doctors will perform a physical exam if a patient is suspected to have preeclampsia. The physical exam consists of measuring the blood pressure, examining any facial or extremity swelling, and monitoring the patient’s weight. If the doctor believes the patient may have preeclampsia after a physical exam, blood work and urine analysis may be requested. This measures protein levels in the mother and monitor’s the baby’s health.


The only treatment for preeclampsia is to deliver the baby. Towards the end of a pregnancy a physician may prescribe medication to induce labor. Bed rest, plenty of water, and a low-salt diet are the most hopeful treatments to negate harmful effects if the condition is present early in the pregnancy.

The signs of preeclampsia usually fade six weeks after delivery. However, it is likely for preeclampsia to reoccur in later pregnancies. High blood pressure during pregnancy is a precursor for hypertension in old age. It is rare for a mother to die from preeclampsia, but a baby’s survival depends greatly on the severity of the condition and successful delivery. There is no known way to prevent preeclampsia. Common complications consist of stroke, bleeding problems, premature birth, and liver rupture.

VirtuaBaby content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you’ve read on VirtuaBaby. If you think you are experiencing a medical emergency, call your  doctor or 911 immediately.

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