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Preeclampsia during Pregnancy
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
Preeclampsia is high blood pressure (BP) that usually develops after week 20 of pregnancy. It can also develop days or weeks after delivery. Your blood pressure may be 140/90 or higher. One or both numbers may be high. You may also have protein in your urine or damage to organs such as your kidneys or liver. Chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia is preeclampsia in a woman with a history of hypertension before pregnancy. It can also be preeclampsia that develops before week 20 of pregnancy. Preeclampsia can lead to life-threatening conditions such as a stroke, eclampsia (seizures), or HELLP syndrome (blood cell destruction). It is important to get screened for high BP during pregnancy. High BP does not always cause symptoms. Symptoms that do develop may be general, such as headaches and swelling that you may think are not serious.
Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:
- You have a seizure.
- You have chest pain.
Return to the emergency department if:
- You have severe abdominal pain with or without nausea and vomiting.
- You develop a severe headache that does not go away with medicine.
- You have blurred or spotted vision that does not go away.
- You are bleeding from your vagina.
Call your doctor or obstetrician if:
- You have new or increased swelling in your face or hands.
- You are urinating little or not at all.
- You do not feel your baby's movements as often as usual.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
You may need any of the following:
- Blood pressure medicine helps lower your blood pressure and protects your heart, lungs, brain, and kidneys. Take your blood pressure medicine exactly as directed.
- Steroid medicine helps your baby's lungs develop. These may be given if you have to deliver before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
- Low doses of aspirin may be recommended after 12 weeks of pregnancy if you are at high risk for preeclampsia. Aspirin may help prevent preeclampsia or problems that can happen from preeclampsia. Do not take aspirin unless directed by your healthcare provider.
- Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him of her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Your BP will need to be checked by healthcare providers 1 to 2 times each week until your baby is born. The following are ways you can help manage high BP during pregnancy:
- Rest as directed. Your healthcare provider may tell you to rest more often if you have mild symptoms of preeclampsia. You may need to be in the hospital if your condition worsens.
- Do not drink alcohol or smoke. Alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars, can increase your BP. They can also harm your baby. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently drink alcohol or smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
- Do kick counts as directed. You may need to keep track of how often your baby moves or kicks over a certain amount of time. Ask your obstetrician how to do kick counts and how often to do them.
- Check your weight each day. Weigh yourself every day before breakfast. Weight gain can be a sign of extra fluid in your body. Call your obstetrician if you have gained 2 or more pounds in a week.
Follow up with your obstetrician as directed:
You will need tests 1 to 2 times a week to check your condition. Tests include blood pressure checks, urine and blood tests, and fetal monitoring. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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