Preeclampsia (which used to be called toxemia of pregnancy) is a pregnancy-related blood circulation problem that causes high blood pressure and affects the mother's kidneys, liver, brain, and placenta. Its cause is unknown.
Preeclampsia most commonly occurs during first pregnancies.
Signs of preeclampsia include:
Preeclampsia typically occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy. It can develop much earlier in a multiple or molar pregnancy than in a normal pregnancy. Preeclampsia can develop gradually or suddenly and may remain mild or become severe.
A woman with any signs of preeclampsia is closely monitored by her doctor or nurse-midwife. Preeclampsia can be treated in the hospital with bed rest, medicine, and close monitoring of the mother and fetus. If not treated, preeclampsia may damage the mother's liver or kidneys and can cause seizures (eclampsia). In rare cases, coma and death of the mother and fetus can follow.
Delivery is the only true "cure" for preeclampsia. This has to be balanced with how far along the pregnancy is and whether it is safe for the fetus to be delivered. Within the first few days following delivery, the mother's blood pressure usually returns to normal. With severe preeclampsia, it may take at least 6 weeks for blood pressure to return to normal.
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