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Pregnancy Complications

Hypertensive Disorders ~ PIH, Preeclampsia, Eclampsia, HELLP Syndrome

Preeclampsia and Eclampsia

Preeclampsia is a dangerous combination of high blood pressure, fluid retention, and high levels of protein in the urine of women after their 20th week of pregnancy. Sometimes called toxemia, it affects about one in 20 pregnant women. If not treated, preeclampsia can worsen into eclampsia, a potentially fatal condition that involves seizures and coma. Preeclampsia puts unborn children and their mothers at risk.

Signs and Symptoms


  • High blood pressure (above 140/90)
  • Large increase in your systolic (top number) or diastolic (bottom number) blood pressure
  • Excessive weight gain (more than five pounds in a week)
  • Sudden weight gain over one or two days
  • Retention of fluids, which causes the hands and face to swell, (pregnancy naturally causes the ankles to swell slightly, which is not necessarily a sign of preeclampsia)
  • Reduction in the amount of your urine
  • Pain in the upper right side of your abdomen
  • Disturbances to your vision, such as seeing flashing lights
What Causes It?

Nobody knows what causes pre-eclampsia. However, certain women have a higher risk of developing it in pregnancy. They include women in their first pregnancy; teenagers and women over 40 who are pregnant; women carrying multiple fetuses; women who have already suffered pre-eclampsia; African-American women; and women who have had high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

Once you have described your symptoms, your health care provider will take your blood pressure and examine your face and hands for evidence of fluid retention. He or she will want samples of your blood and urine, for tests to differentiate between preeclampsia and other diseases. Your provider will probably want you to collect all the urine you produce during a full day.

Excerpt from Integrative Medicine Access

Copyright Integrative Medicine Communications. Used with permission. Posted 4/00

This document contains information relating to general principles of medical care that should not in any event be construed as specific instructions for individual patients. The reader is advised to check product information (including package inserts) for changes and new information regarding dosage, precautions, and contraindications before administering any drug. No claim or endorsements are made for any drug or compound currently in investigative use. No responsibility is assumed by the publisher for any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise, or from any use or operation of any methods, products, instructions, or ideas contained in any material herein.

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