Learn the signs, and the best approach to treatment.

Blue Flourish

Preeclampsia is pregnancy-induced hypertension, or high blood pressure. For some women with chronic hypertension, pregnancy can further elevate blood pressure. However, even women without chronic hypertension can develop high blood pressure during pregnancy.

High blood pressure is serious because it can restrict blood flow and delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the baby. If you have chronic hypertension and become pregnant, discuss with your doctor how you should monitor your condition.

Preeclampsia usually occurs late in pregnancy, after Week 20, and can be serious for both the mother-to-be and baby. High blood pressure problems occur in 6 percent to 8 percent of all pregnancies in the U.S., about 70 percent of which are first-time pregnancies.1

Possible signs of preeclampsia include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Edema (or swelling) in the face and hands
  • Sudden rapid weight gain
  • Headaches, blurred vision, and abdominal pain

Always consult your doctor if you suspect that you have preeclampsia.

Who is at risk for preeclampsia?

While research hasn’t pinpointed what causes preeclampsia, risk increases for women who:

  • Are pregnant for the first time
  • Had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy
  • Have a history of high blood pressure
  • Are 35 or older
  • Are carrying more than one baby
  • Have a mother or sister who experienced pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Are significantly overweight
  • Have other medical conditions, such as diabetes, lupus, or kidney disease

The best approach to preeclampsia during pregnancy

Before and during your pregnancy2:

  • Enter pregnancy at a healthy weight
  • Follow weight guideline recommendations during pregnancy
  • Take a daily prenatal multivitamin and mineral supplement prescribed by your doctor
  • Eat a balanced diet providing all the nutrients needed including calcium, vitamins C and E, and healthy fats including DHA

While no proven preventions for preeclampsia exist, nutrient-dense diets with moderate sodium intake during pregnancy have been shown to be beneficial. Daily Food Plan for Moms offers a nutrient-rich eating plan, but you should always consult your doctor about your specific nutritional needs.

1 http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/resources/heart/hbp-pregnancy Accessed 10/13/15.
2 Ward E. Expect the Best. The American Dietetic Association, J Wiley and Sons; Hoboken, NJ. 2009:187.