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Signs of Pre eclampsia in pregnancy

Pregnancy is such a special time in your life, it is full of new experiences and knowledge. As you get to know your body in a new light you might also start noticing that things feel different and a bit off. A common complication of pregnancy is Pre eclampsia, formerly known as toxaemia.

Do you know the signs of Pre eclampsia?

Pre eclampsia effects women all over the world and is not specific to where you live. It is known to effect ten million women in the world. In developing countries, a women is seven times as likely to develop Pre eclampsia than a woman in a developed country.

Pre eclampsia Awareness

The onset of pre eclampsia can occur suddenly, so it is important to know the signs so that you can get help. The main cause preventing women from seeking help in developed countries includes, lack of awareness and understanding of the signs and symptoms of the disease. Global issues include:

  • Poverty

  • Distance

  • Lack of information

  • Inadequate services

  • Cultural practices

So as you can see it isn’t just the disease that is the problem, it is the lack of knowledge and services that are available.

So what are the signs and symptoms of Pre Eclampsia?


With Pre eclampsia, swelling can be the first sign of the disease. It can be more noticeable especially in the hands, feet and legs. Swelling itself is a normal sign of pregnancy due to increased blood volume, but it is excessive swelling that is dangerous.

High blood pressure

Blood pressure 140/90 on two seperate occasions at least 4 hours apart is classed as high blood pressure (Mayo Clinic).

Protein in urine

Some protein in your urine is normal, especially towards the end. However, excessive amounts of protein can be a tell tale sign of Pre eclampsia. There are also other kidney function tests that can be performed by a health professional.

Other important signs that may indicate Pre eclampsia:

  • Severe headaches

  • Change in vision, blurred vision or light sensitivity

  • Upper abdominal pain, under your ribs on the right side

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Decreased urine output

  • Shortness of breath

If you have any of these symptoms then make sure you see your health professional promptly.

So what causes Pre Eclampsia?

The exact cause of Pre eclampsia involves several factors. Experts believe it begins with the placenta. Early in pregnancy, new blood vessels develop and evolve to efficiently send blood to the placenta. In women with Pre eclampsia, these blood vessels don’t seem to develop or function properly. They’re narrower than normal blood vessels and react differently to hormonal signalling, which limits the amount of blood that can flow through them. (


Pre eclampsia is monitored very closely by health professionals, however the only true treatment is via delivery of the baby and placenta.

Who to contact?

If you are worried that you may have Pre eclampsia then make sure that you contact your midwife or obstetrician to get a thorough examination.


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