- Stages of Pregnancy Slideshow Pictures
- Early Pregnancy Symptoms
- Conception (Egg to Embryo) Slideshow Pictures
- Patient Comments: Preeclampsia - Personal Experience
- Find a local Obstetrician-Gynecologist in your town
- Preeclampsia Facts*
- What Is High Blood Pressure?
- What Are the Effects of High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy?
- What Is Preeclampsia?
- How Common Are High Blood Pressure and Preeclampsia in Pregnancy?
- Who Is More Likely to Develop Preeclampsia?
- What Are the Symptoms of Preeclampsia and How Is It Detected?
- How Can Women with High Blood Pressure Prevent Problems During Pregnancy?
- Does Hypertension or Preeclampsia During Pregnancy Cause Long-Term Heart and Blood Vessel Problems?
Quick GuideStages of Pregnancy: See the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Trimesters of Mom & Baby
What Is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the amount of force exerted by the blood against the walls of the arteries. A person's blood pressure is considered high when the readings are greater than 140 mm Hg systolic (the top number in the blood pressure reading) or 90 mm Hg diastolic (the bottom number). In general, high blood pressure, or hypertension, contributes to the development of coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure and kidney disease.
What Are the Effects of High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy?
Although many pregnant women with high blood pressure have healthy babies without serious problems, high blood pressure can be dangerous for both the mother and the fetus. Women with pre-existing, or chronic, high blood pressure are more likely to have certain complications during pregnancy than those with normal blood pressure. However, some women develop high blood pressure while they are pregnant (often called gestational hypertension).
The effects of high blood pressure range from mild to severe. High blood pressure can harm the mother's kidneys and other organs, and it can cause low birth weight and early delivery. In the most serious cases, the mother develops preeclampsia - or "toxemia of pregnancy"--which can threaten the lives of both the mother and the fetus.
What Is Preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a condition that typically starts after the 20th week of pregnancy and is related to increased blood pressure and protein in the mother's urine (as a result of kidney problems). Preeclampsia affects the placenta, and it can affect the mother's kidney, liver, and brain. When preeclampsia causes seizures, the condition is known as eclampsia--the second leading cause of maternal death in the U.S. Preeclampsia is also a leading cause of fetal complications, which include low birth weight, premature birth, and stillbirth.
There is no proven way to prevent preeclampsia. Most women who develop signs of preeclampsia, however, are closely monitored to lessen or avoid related problems. The only way to "cure" preeclampsia is to deliver the baby.