Pre-eclampsia has no symptoms in its early stages, when it can be detected only in routine screening tests carried out in antenatal clinics. A combination of rising blood pressure and protein in the urine suggests pre-eclampsia, although there is no foolproof diagnostic test.

Swelling (oedema) of the hands, feet and face caused by fluid retention is often a feature of pre-eclampsia, but is also common in normal pregnancy. Symptoms like upper abdominal pain, vomiting, severe headache, and visual disturbances (such as ‘flashing lights’) sometimes arise when the disease has reached an advanced stage. These symptoms should therefore never be ignored in pregnancy although, since each can have other causes, they do not necessarily signal danger.

Look out for:

  • Severe swelling of hands, feet or face
  • Severe pain under the ribs
  • Severe headaches
  • Visual disturbances e.g. flashing lights
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Feeling unwell