Preeclampsia Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Preeclampsia is a dangerous condition that can affect all the organs of your body. It is marked by high blood pressure, swelling or high levels of albumin in your urine between the 20th week of pregnancy and the end of the first week after delivery.

Affecting 5% of pregnant women, preeclampsia can come on silently and without known causes, though it primarily affects women having their first baby or who had high blood pressure or vascular disease before they became pregnant.

If preeclampsia isn’t treated it may suddenly turn into eclampsia, which can cause seizures, coma or death. Preeclampsia can also cause the placenta to detach too early from the wall of the uterus (abruptio placentae).


Preeclampsia can develop without you being aware of it. Symptoms can include:

  • swelling of face or hands
  • headache that will not go away
  • seeing spots or changes in eyesight
  • pain in the upper abdomen or shoulder
  • nausea and vomiting (in the second half of pregnancy)
  • sudden weight gain
  • difficulty breathing

If you have any of these symptoms, especially if they develop in the second half of pregnancy, call your ob-gyn right away.

A woman with preeclampsia whose condition is worsening will develop “severe features.” Severe features include:

  • low number of platelets in the blood
  • abnormal kidney or liver function
  • pain in the upper abdomen
  • changes in vision
  • fluid in the lungs
  • severe headache
  • systolic pressure of 160 mm Hg or higher or diastolic pressure of 110 mm Hg or higher

Your Hoag obstetrician may order blood tests, urine analysis and liver function tests to diagnose preeclampsia and/or rule out unsuspected kidney disease.


In early preeclampsia, your doctor will recommend seeing you as frequently as every two days. Hoag specialists will work with you on your diet to keep salt intake low, while making sure you’re drinking enough water.

Your doctor may suggest you be admitted to the hospital. Here you can receive constant monitoring and intravenous solutions to reduce swelling and bring your blood pressure down. Early delivery may be needed in some cases.

About four to six weeks after the baby is delivered, the signs of preeclampsia should begin to go away. Before that, you will need to be monitored closely, as one out of four cases of eclampsia happen during the first two to four days after delivery.

You should be seen by your doctor again three days after the delivery to determine if you need to take medication to manage your high blood pressure. Your doctor will also give you a lasix, procardia treatment.