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Preeclampsia Definition and Overview

Preeclampsia is a serious complication of pregnancy associated with the development of high blood pressure, and edema (swelling). and protein in the urine. Women diagnosed with preeclampsia may also complain of blurred vision, headaches, and experience greater than normal weight gain.

Preeclampsia occurs any time after the 20th week of pregnancy. It can even develop up to six weeks after the baby is born (the postpartum period) but this is uncommon. Toxemia or toxemia of pregnancy are names that have been used to describe preeclampsia.

  • Worldwide, it has been estimated that 5% to 14% of pregnancies are complicated by preeclampsia.
  • Preeclampsia usually occurs in a woman's first pregnancy, but may occur for the first time in a subsequent pregnancy. In the U.S., 3% to 6% of pregnancies will be complicated by preeclampsia.
  • Less than one in 100 women with preeclampsia will develop eclampsia or convulsions (seizures).
  • Up to 20% of all pregnancies are complicated by high blood pressure. Complications resulting from high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and eclampsia may account for up to 20% of all deaths that occur in pregnant women.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/23/2015

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Preeclampsia is a pregnancy-specific syndrome characterized by new-onset hypertension and proteinuria, occurring usually after 20 weeks' gestation.

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