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Sharp Health News

What pregnant women need to know about preeclampsia

May 31, 2016

What pregnant women need to know about preeclampsia

Up to 7 percent of pregnant women will experience preeclampsia, a serious condition that can develop in later pregnancy, usually after 20 weeks.

The dangers of preeclampsia are significant. Pregnant women who have severe preeclampsia can suffer from a stroke due to high blood pressure. These women also have one and a half to three times the likelihood of developing eclampsia, a condition that causes seizures. Long-term effects for baby include growth restrictions, which can lead to increased risk for preterm delivery.

Symptoms of the condition include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Protein in the urine
  • Severe headaches not relieved with pain medication
  • Visual disturbances
  • Swelling in the feet, hands and face
  • Excessive weight gain in a short period of time

If symptoms are present, careful monitoring of blood pressure and lab tests can help determine if preeclampsia has developed.

According to Dr. Sean Daneshmand, a high-risk pregnancy specialist at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns, the most effective treatment is delivery. However, timing is essential.

“If a mother develops preeclampsia early on, we usually wait to deliver if we feel mom and baby are in stable condition and are still thriving,” says Dr. Daneshmand. “However, if mom’s high blood pressure isn’t responding to medication, or baby’s well-being is in jeopardy, we deliver immediately.”

Though data is varied, the chances of a woman developing preeclampsia again in future pregnancies is up to 50 percent. However, past personal and family medical history can increase those chances.

Future health is important to Dr. Daneshmand. He gives important advice to women who have a history of the condition because of the related increased risk of developing heart disease, a leading cause of death for women.

“I tell them you need to be really watchful of your health because pregnancy, most of the time, gives you a window of how your health is going to look in the future,” he says.

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Daneshmand about preeclampsia and other pregnancy-related topics, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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