What is preeclampsia?

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Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure and the presence of protein in urine. It can appear at the 20th week of pregnancy and can last up to six weeks after the baby is born.

Preeclampsia, also called pregnancy-induced hypertension, is a condition that affects about 6% of pregnant women worldwide. It is one of the most important causes of maternal and infant mortality. It increases the risk of pregnancy complications such as pulmonary edema (water in the lungs) or aspiration (unconscious inhalation of foreign material into the trachea). It puts the baby at risk by limiting its growth in the uterus and increasing the risk of miscarriage and premature birth. Preeclampsia also increases the risk of placental abruption: in this case, the baby gets less food and oxygen.

The causes of preeclampsia are not well known. However, the following factors seem to predispose some women more than others:

  • age under 20 or over 40
  • first pregnancy
  • personal or family history of preeclampsia
  • multiple pregnancy
  • African, Native American or Latin American origin
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure before pregnancy
  • overweight before pregnancy.


It is recommended to contact a doctor if more than one of the following signs occur after the 20th week of pregnancy:

  • swelling of the face and hands
  • visual impairments
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • sudden weight gain
  • ringing in the ears
  • chest pain.

If in doubt, if signs appear, it is recommended to go measure your blood pressure at the nearest pharmacy.


Xu, H., Shatestein, B., Luo, Z., Wei, S. & Fraser, W. (2009). Role of nutrition in the risk of preeclampsia. Nutrition Review, 67 (11): 639-657.

Zhou, S. J., Yelland, L., McPhee, A. J., Quinlivan, J., Gibson, R. A. & Makrides, M. (2012). Fish-oil supplementation in pregnancy does not reduce the risk of gestational diabetes or preeclampsia. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 95: 1378-84.

Santé chez nous. (2015). Prééclampsie.


Preeclampsia foundation. (2015). About preeclampsia.



Santé chez nous. (2015). Prééclampsie.

Preeclampsia foundation. (2015). About preeclampsia.


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