In its broadest form and including gestational hypertension, pre-eclampsia affects as many as one in 10 of all pregnancies, making it the most common of the serious antenatal complications. It occurs more often in first pregnancies, although a minority of women who have suffered it once get it again in one or more subsequent pregnancies. 

You’re more at risk if:

  • You are pregnant for the first time
  • You are having your first baby
  • Any close relatives (mother, sister) have had preeclampsia
  • You already have high blood pressure
  • You have diabetes, kidney disease or migraine
  • You are aged 40 or more
  • You are expecting twins, triplets or more
  • You have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 or more
  • If it has been 10 years or more since your last baby
  • You have previously suffered with pre-eclampsia
  • At booking you have proteinuria (protein in your urine)
  • At booking you have a diastolic blood pressure of 80 or more

What treatments are used for pre-eclampsia?

Mothers are admitted to hospital if they have pre-eclampsia – which means protein in the urine as well as high blood pressure. This is to enable doctors and midwives to monitor the progress of mother and baby as closely as possible so that a safe induction, if necessary carried out before complications set in.

Pre-eclampsia is progressive – it doesn’t get better and usually gets worse. So, once admitted, mothers are not normally allowed home until after their baby has been born. Antihypertensive drugs, which reduce high blood pressure, are often prescribed; although they do not affect the underlying disease, they can reduce the risk of some complications, such as cerebral haemorrhage. Anticonvulsant drugs may also be prescribed to ward off eclamptic fits.