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Preeclampsia: What is it?

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

Hello fierce mamas!

May 22nd is World Preeclampsia Awareness Day and as an organization that promotes empowerment through education, we wanted to raise awareness about this important topic. We also want to hear your stories so that we may educate our community through shared experiences. If you or your loved one has experienced preeclampsia, please email with the subject line “my preeclampsia story” and tell us about your experience. You are not alone!

DISCLOSURE: This information is not meant to be ALL encompassing and should NOT replace seeking advice from your health care provider for specific, questions, solutions, and concerns about your health! The purpose is to spark curiosity and gain some insight into your health.

What is Preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a condition/disease that is unique to pregnant and newly delivered women. It is characterized by elevated blood pressures after 20 weeks and up to 6 weeks after delivery. The diagnosis is also associated with end-organ damage to both the kidneys and the liver. It is often associated with findings of elevated protein in the urine. It may be associated with fluid in the lungs, neurological findings of a seizure or vision changes, and by a drop in your platelets. Preeclampsia may be a life-threatening diagnosis for you and your baby and always requires medical attention. In the United States, the rate of preeclampsia has increased by 25% in the last two decades yet awareness about this disease is lacking.

Signs of Preeclampsia:

If you experience any or all of these symptoms during or after your pregnancy call your doctor right away or go to the nearest hospital for evaluation. Some women have no symptoms at all which is why it’s so important to attend all of your prenatal visits.

  1. Elevated Blood pressures >140/90

  2. Severe Headache that will not go away with medication

  3. Changes in vision – spots, blurry vision, flashing lights

  4. Abdominal pain often upper right quadrant pain or shoulder pain

  5. Difficulty breathing

  6. Nausea or vomiting suddenly (mid-pregnancy)

  7. Accelerated weight gain over a short period of time (>5 lbs. in a week)

  8. Swelling of the hands, feet, or lower extremity

  9. Seizure like activity

What is the Cause of Preeclampsia??

Even though preeclampsia affects up to 8% of all pregnancies in the world, the cause of preeclampsia remains unknown. There are numerous theories associated with the cause of preeclampsia, but none have been identified as the true cause of this disease. Most of these theories have been used in combination to create preventive actions for women.

What are the risk factors for Preeclampsia? Talk to your doctor if you have any of the following

  • A history of Preeclampsia

  • Diabetes

  • High blood pressure

  • Autoimmune disorder

  • >35 years old

  • Obesity

  • Kidney disease

  • Pregnant with multiple babies

How is Preeclampsia Treated?

Treatment of preeclampsia can vary depending on several maternal and fetal factors including how far along the pregnancy is, how severe the symptoms are the overall health and age of both mother and fetus and the progression of the disease. If patients are >37 weeks often the treatment will be delivery and supportive care. If they are less than 37 weeks providers will monitor both mother and fetus closely. Anti-hypertensive medications are often used if blood pressures are >160/110.

10 Facts about Preeclampsia

  • The latest research shows that taking a baby aspirin 81mg starting at 12-16 weeks can help prevent preterm birth and pre-eclampsia

  • Only 50% of educated women are informed and understand the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia.

  • 1 in every 12 pregnancies or 5-8% of pregnancies is complicated by preeclampsia.

  • 66% of patients that have preeclampsia will die of cardiovascular disease in the future. YOU ARE AT RISK!! Ask your doctor about ways to prevent cardiovascular disease. If you have had preeclampsia make sure you tell your doctors in the future about your experience.

  • Premature birth, low birth weight, and risk of death are all fetal risks of preeclampsia

  • Preeclampsia DOUBLES your risk of having heart disease in the future.

  • Preeclampsia makes you 4x more likely to have high blood pressure in the future.

  • 6-8% of all pregnancies in the POSTPARTUM period are affected by preeclampsia.

  • Preeclampsia is the LEADING cause of maternal mortality and results in 76,000 deaths worldwide and 500,000 infant deaths.

  • Having preeclampsia in one pregnancy increases your risk of having it in your subsequent pregnancies.

What can you do to HELP advance future research about preeclampsia? If you or your loved one has experienced blood pressure related issues in pregnancy, please visit:


Join the worldwide registry for preeclampsia. Sadly, preeclampsia is still one of the lowest funded research areas under preventable diseases.


Check out these free informational videos here:

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