Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy related condition that usually occurs in the second half of pregnancy and can prompt symptoms such as headache, swelling, visual disturbances and pain under the rib cage or shoulder.

The exact cause of pre-eclampsia is not fully understood but it is believed to be connected with functioning of the placenta.

In the vast majority of cases the diagnosis of this condition occurs not through the above symptoms but is detected at routine antenatal appointments.  

During your midwife or GP appointments you will have your blood pressure taken and urine tested.  Women that present with high blood pressure and protein in their urine will be advised to have a blood test and be monitored closely.

Most cases of pre-eclampsia are rare but up to 2% of women the condition will become severe.  If you are told that you have pre-eclampsia you may be advised to take blood pressure tablets.  


If your blood pressure it thought to be unusually high you may be advised to stay in hospital where it will be measured on a regular basis.  In severe cases your blood pressure may be taken every 15 minutes until it is stabilised and then this will be reduced to every 30 minute.

The only total cure is to deliver the baby.  You may be advised that the safest option for you and your baby is to be induced or to have a caesarean section.  The consultant at the hospital will discuss how best to manage your pregnancy and this will depend on how severe the pre-eclampsia is.

Risk factors for pre-eclampsia include; gestational diabetes, Lupus, existing high blood pressure, family history of the condition, pre-eclampsia in a previous pregnancy (16% higher chance), being over the age of 40, a gap of 10 years between pregnancies, raised BMI.  If you are thought to be at an increased risk for developing this condition you may be advised to take a daily dose of aspirin from 12 weeks of pregnancy.