The Truth About Preeclampsia: Symptoms and Causes

Preeclampsia, also known as pregnancy-induced hypertension, is one of the most serious complications of pregnancy, which can have devastating effects on the health of mother and child alike. If you’re expecting or know someone who is, here’s what you need to know about preeclampsia signs and its causes.

Left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to complications like seizures (eclampsia) or even parental and/or fetal death in rare cases. As such, knowing the signs of preeclampsia is vital, and they include the following…

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Hypertension is an early sign of preeclampsia. Overexertion can lead to negative health effects throughout the body. Regular blood pressure readings can detect whether or not someone has this condition.

Hypertension typically has no noticeable symptoms. So, it’s important to know other signs that could indicate a serious medical condition…

Shortness of Breath & a Racing Heart

After physical activity, it’s normal to feel a little out of breath. But, being out of breath outside of exercise can be one of the first signs of preeclampsia.

High blood pressure can result in both rapid heart rate (tachycardia) and shortness of breath. In rare cases, pulmonary edema, a condition in which fluid fills the lungs, may be to blame for these symptoms. These symptoms warrant medical attention right away, as does the following…

Blurry Vision

Anyone experiencing blurry vision during or after pregnancy should contact their medical provider right away, as it can indicate a severe case of preeclampsia.

According to experts, roughly 1 in 4 severe preeclampsia patients experience vision problems. Those with eclampsia have a 1 in 2 chance of developing visual symptoms.

Blurring vision isn’t the only way preeclampsia affects vision, either…

Sensitivity to Light (Photophobia)

Increased sensitivity to light is medically known as photophobia. Like blurry vision, it is another sign of severe preeclampsia or even eclampsia.

Along with photophobia, patients may also experience vision changes like seeing flashes of light (photopsia) and partial or complete blindness. These symptoms should always be brought up with your doctor.

The following sign of preeclampsia is easy for anyone to see…


Some people with preeclampsia may notice they bruise easily. According to the American Pregnancy Association, preeclampsia causes easier bruising due to altered blood flow. In other words, HBP associated with this condition can make bruising easier.

Extreme nausea can also be a cause for concern…

Intense Nausea and/or Vomiting

Morning sickness is a normal part of pregnancy. In fact, some experts believe that mild and/or moderate cases of morning sickness indicate a healthier pregnancy that is less likely to end in miscarriage. When nausea and vomiting become severe, however, it could indicate that something is wrong.

Two hints that preeclampsia is to blame are whether or not the queasiness is sudden, and if these symptoms occur again in the second trimester. It’s best to discuss any issues with your doctor, particularly if morning sickness is unbearable or constant.

The following is also hard to pinpoint directly to preeclampsia, as it accompanies many pregnancies…

Constant and/or Severe Headaches

Headaches are common in pregnancy, which means it can be hard to tell if they’re related to preeclampsia or normal pregnancy. Constant headaches, intense headaches, or migraines require attention from a medical provider and are common indicators of preeclampsia.

Pregnancy can come with unpleasant bloating and swelling, although in certain cases it could point to serious health problems…

Swelling of the Limbs (Edema)

Pregnancy bloating is common and normal, particularly in the lower half of the body. Swelling in the arms, hands, and face, though, can indicate preeclampsia.

Such swelling can lead to the following…

Rapid Weight Gain

A healthy pregnancy involves weight gain, but rapid weight gain, like more than five pounds a week, can be concerning and even be one of many preeclampsia signs. So, if you’re gaining more weight than expected during pregnancy, talk to your doctor right away.

Another potential sign of preeclampsia can be found in the bathroom…

Low Urine Output (Oliguria)

It’s no secret that pregnancy increases someone’s number of bathroom visits. When these trips produce little to no urine or urine that is dark in color, it could indicate dehydration, or more seriously, preeclampsia.

Dark urine is closely related to the following…

Proteins in the Urine (Proteinuria)

If you’ve had a urine test recently and it came back with unusual results, preeclampsia might be the cause. Urine proteins (proteinuria), along with HBP, are classic indicators of preeclampsia. A urinalysis can typically detect proteinuria.

Preeclampsia can affect the whole body, including the kidneys. Affected kidneys may have difficulties properly processing bodily waste. As a result, excessive amounts of proteins can make their way into the urine.

Preeclampsia can be a real pain, too…

Abdominal Pain

Many people with preeclampsia report pain in the stomach or upper abdomen under the right side of the ribcage. That said, pain can also occur underneath the breastbone and other body parts.

Shockingly perhaps the most common symptom of all is…

No Symptoms

Some people experience no symptoms of preeclampsia at all, which means the only way for these asymptomatic individuals to detect the condition is through regular healthcare visits. These visits should include urine tests and BP readings.

Final Thoughts

Preeclampsia can become life-threatening if not treated properly. As such, it’s important for pregnant people to talk to their medical providers about any concerns and to attend all pregnancy wellness visits.

Disclaimer: this article does not constitute or replace medical advice. If you have an emergency or a serious medical question, please contact a medical professional or call 911 immediately.

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