Know More: Pre-eclampsia & Eclampsia

Recently I went to the gynac with a Preggie friend of mine and in passing she happened to mention she’d been having headaches and lower back pains in her 3rd month itself. The gynac immediately checked her BP and her hands and legs for any swelling. After doing that, she happened to mention that, “It’s all normal, not to worry, there’s no Pre-eclampsia.’ Both of us were googly eyed since we’d never heard of this term before so we asked the gynac and she gave us a short description about it. After that my friend and I were talking about how much we don’t know about pregnancy and decided to read some more and google it. I wanted to share some of my findings with you.

Right at the offset, let me confirm that I am NOT a Doctor and am just trying to help you all know about such terms which can be thrown to you also by the Doc. It really helps to be aware of this so that if incase you suffer the same symptoms, you don’t panic. The knowledge will help you keep calm and that’s our endeavor here.

What is Pre-eclampsia? When can it occur during pregnancy?

Preeclampsia is a disorder that occurs only during pregnancy and the postpartum period and affects both, mother and the unborn baby. Typically, preeclampsia occurs after 20 weeks gestation (in the late 2nd or 3rd trimesters or middle to late pregnancy) and up to six weeks postpartum, though in rare cases it can occur earlier than 20 weeks.

Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH) and toxemia are outdated terms for preeclampsia. HELLP syndrome and eclampsia (seizures) are other variants of preeclampsia.

What exactly is this HELLP syndrome and Eclampsia?


HELLP syndrome is a life-threatening pregnancy complication usually considered to be a variant of preeclampsia. It usually occurs during the later stages of pregnancy, or sometimes after childbirth.

HELLP syndrome was named by Dr. Louis Weinstein in 1982 after its characteristics:

H (hemolysis, which is the breaking down of red blood cells),

EL (elevated liver enzymes) and

LP (low platelet count).

Most often, the definitive treatment for women with HELLP Syndrome is delivery of the baby. Transfusion of some form of blood product (red cells, platelets, plasma) is often needed.


Eclampsia is a very serious complication of preeclampsia characterized by one or more seizures during pregnancy or in the post-partum period. Eclampsia is rare and usually treatable if detected and treated in time. Untreated, eclamptic seizures can result in coma, brain damage, and possibly maternal or infant death.

Magnesium sulfate (given intravenously) is the treatment of choice for severe preeclampsia – to prevent eclampsia – or after eclampsia develops to prevent recurrence.

What causes Pre-eclampsia?

The cause of preeclampsia remains unknown. There are a whole load of theories about this which have not been proven. There is a general agreement though, that the placenta plays a key role in preeclampsia, and women with chronic hypertension and certain metabolic diseases like diabetes are more susceptible. Obesity is another major risk factor.

What does Pre-eclampsia actually do?

Preeclampsia can cause high blood pressure, putting you at risk of brain injury. It can impair kidney and liver function, and hamper blood clotting, pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs), seizures and, in severe forms or left untreated, maternal and infant death. Preeclampsia affects the blood flow to the placenta, often leading to smaller or prematurely born babies.

What are the Symptoms?

  • No Symptoms (This is because some of the symptoms may resemble the normal effects of pregnancy)
  • Hypertension
  • Proteinuria (High levels of Protein in urine)
  • Edema (Swelling)
  • Sudden Weight Gain
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Abdominal (stomach area) and/or Shoulder Pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Headache
  • Changes in Vision
  • Hyperreflexia

What may make a woman susceptible to pre-eclampsia?

  • Previous history of preeclampsia
  • Multiple gestation (i.e., pregnant with more than one baby)
  • History of chronic high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease or organ transplant
  • First pregnancy
  • Obesity, particularly with Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or greater.
  • Over 40 or under 18 years of age
  • Family history of preeclampsia (i.e., a mother, sister, grandmother or aunt had the disorder)
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Lupus or other autoimmune disorders,  rheumatoid arthritis, sarcoidosis, multiple sclerosis
  • In-vitro fertilization (IVF)
  • Sickle cell disease

How can Pre-eclampsia be detected?

Preeclampsia may not be noticed/detected until you have a routine blood pressure check and urine test.

How is it treated? Is there a cure?

If pre-eclampsia is detected and the baby has completed 37weeks (considered a ‘term’ baby) which means that the growth is considered normal, the baby is delivered immediately, and the mother and child are sent home as normally others would.

The impact of preeclampsia is more critical if it occurs earlier in the pregnancy before the baby is developed, or in a woman who suffers from high BP from way before her pregnancy. They may be advised bed rest, medication, etc anything to keep the blood pressure under control. Keeping the baby in-utero as long as possible, assuming growth continues, is preferred for the long-term health of the baby.

Unfortunately, the only “cure” for the disease begins with delivery of the baby and placenta, which is sometimes recommended before the pregnancy goes to term in the best interest of the mother. Doctors may prescribe anti-hypertensive medications. If the blood pressure cannot be managed with medication and treatment, and the mother’s and/or baby’s health is at risk, the mother may be given steroids to aid the maturation of the infant’s lungs prior to delivering the baby.

I really do help this has helped you get a better understanding of Pre-eclampsia..So pls beware..If you have high BP or experience nigging symptoms, don’t hesitate to approach your doc. Remember that all those blood tests and urine routines do have a purpose..missing or skipping any may or may not affect you adversely…

Be Happy. Be Safe.

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