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Preeclampsia and pregnancy infographic.

Preeclampsia and Pregnancy (Text Version)

[Illustration of a pregnant figure getting her blood pressure taken]

Preeclampsia is a serious blood pressure disorder that can happen during pregnancy or soon after childbirth. Preeclampsia is a leading cause of death worldwide for women, fetuses, and newborns. It can develop without you realizing it, so it’s important to learn the symptoms.

What Are the Warning Signs?

When there are symptoms, they may include...

  • A headache that will not go away [illustration of a pregnant figure with a headache]
  • Shortness of breath [illustration of lungs]
  • Seeing spots, blurry vision, or other changes in eyesight [illustration of an eye]
  • Pain in the upper abdomen or shoulder [illustration of a pregnant figure holding her upper abdomen]
  • Swelling of face or hands [illustration of a swollen hand]
  • Nausea and vomiting in the 2nd half of pregnancy [illustration of a pregnant figure vomiting]
  • Sudden weight gain [illustration of a scale]

[Icon of an exclamation point inside a triangle]

What Are the Risk Factors?

Anyone can develop preeclampsia. Many women who get preeclampsia are otherwise healthy and do not have clear risk factors. But some women may have a higher risk than others.

Risk factors for women at high risk include:

  • Preeclampsia in a past pregnancy
  • Carrying more than one fetus
  • Chronic high blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Autoimmune conditions, such as lupus

Risk factors for women at moderate risk include:

  • Being pregnant for the first time
  • Obesity
  • Family history of preeclampsia (mother or sister)
  • Being older than 35

Your Future Health

If you are diagnosed with preeclampsia during pregnancy, you may be more likely to have health problems in the future when you are not pregnant. These problems may include...

  • Heart attack [illustration of a figure clutching their chest]
  • Stroke [illustration of a figure with distress on one side of the body]
  • Kidney disease [illustration of a figure with the kidneys shown]
  • High blood pressure [illustration of a figure having their blood pressure taken]

You may need to see your obstetrician–gynecologist (ob-gyn) or other health care professional earlier or more often after childbirth so he or she can keep a close eye on your health. You should also tell any future health care professionals that you had preeclampsia.


Many women who get preeclampsia do not have clear risk factors. Talk with your ob-gyn or other health care professional right away if you have any warning signs.
[Illustration of a pregnant woman speaking with a doctor]

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PFSI018: This information was designed as an educational aid to patients and sets forth current information and opinions related to women’s health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care, nor does it comprise all proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for a treating clinician’s independent professional judgment. Please check for updates at to ensure accuracy.

Copyright October 2020 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, posted on the internet, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher.