Alternate Names : Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension (PIH), Toxemia
Preeclampsia is high blood pressure that develops or increases during pregnancy. The condition usually occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy.
What is going on in the body?
The placenta is the spongy material in the mother's uterus that nourishes the fetus. Some experts believe that a problem with the placenta causes preeclampsia. The mother has spasms of the blood vessels, which increase her blood pressure. The blood flow to the placenta is impaired. If the blood pressure is not controlled, it can damage the placenta and cause death of the fetus.
Preeclampsia develops in 5% of pregnant women. It usually occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy. It may be mild or severe. The high blood pressure can affect the brain, kidneys, liver, and lungs. If the woman develops seizures or coma, the condition is known as eclampsia.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Following are factors that increase a woman's risk of preeclampsia:
African American ethnicity
age younger than 20 or older than 35
low socioeconomic status
molar pregnancy, an abnormal condition that mimics a normal pregnancy but is actually a tumor
multiple gestation such as twins or triplets
Additional factors that increase the risk of preeclampsia are as follows:
if the mother had preeclampsia or eclampsia in previous pregnancies
if the mother has diabetes
if the mother has high blood pressure before pregnancy
if the mother has underlying kidney disease
if the mother or the baby's father was born of a pregnancy with preeclampsia or eclampsia