Pre-eclampsia symptoms and treatment

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Pre-eclampsia is a condition which affects some women in the second half of their pregnancy (usually after 20 weeks) or soon after their baby is born.

Symptoms of pre-eclampsia

Early signs and symptoms include the presence of protein in urine and high blood pressure.

High blood pressure alone does not indicate pre-eclampsia but the two together are a strong sign that pre-eclampsia is present during the pregnancy.

Further symptoms include

• Severe headaches
• Severe heartburn
• Nausea or vomiting
• Vision problems
• Pain just below the ribs
• Sudden increase in swelling of the hands, feet, face and ankles
• Excessive weight gain.

Signs in unborn baby

Signs of pre-eclampsia will be picked up at any antenatal appointments. These include slow growth due to poor blood supply to the baby through the placenta, less oxygen and fewer nutrients affecting the development.


Pre-eclampsia will only improve once the baby has been delivered. If pre-eclampsia is found you will have to stay in hospital where you and your unborn baby will be monitored until the baby can be delivered.

When staying in hospital with pre-eclampsia you can expect to have:

• Regular blood pressure checks
• Regular urine samples
• Blood tests to check liver and kidney health
• Ultrasounds to check the baby;
• Baby’s heart rate will be monitored

It is likely that you will be prescribed medication to lower your blood pressure to reduce the risk of complications such as stroke.

In expectant mothers with pre-eclampsia, labour may need to be started artificially at around 37 weeks, you will either be induced or a c-section will be preformed. Babies are classed as premature if they are born before 37 weeks but if your condition becomes severe before this then the baby will need to be delivered early.

After the baby is born

There may be occasions where complications start soon after the birth of the baby and not during pregnancy. Once it is safe for you both to go home you will be discharged and a follow up appointment will be made 6-8 weeks later to check on the health of you and your baby.

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