What is pre-eclampsia?

Pre-eclampsia is high blood pressure that occurs after you’re 20 weeks pregnant in combination with often protein in your urine (proteinuria) and/or problems with your kidneys, liver or brain.

Pre-eclampsia affects 8-10% of pregnancies and is thought to be a problem with the placenta that usually causes your blood pressure to rise. If left untreated, pre-eclampsia can be dangerous for you and your baby. POPPY is further studying the cause of pre-eclampsia.

Risk factors

Pre-eclampsia is more common if:

Symptoms and signs of pre-eclampsia

If left untreated, pre-eclampsia can lead to complications such as:

  • fits in pregnancy (eclampsia) – although rare are dangerous for both mother and baby.
  • liver and kidney failure
  • stroke (cerebral haemorrhage)
  • fluid in the lungs (pulmonary oedema)
  • blood clotting disorders. 

This is why it is important to attend all antenatal appointments to regularly check your blood pressure and urine. If you develop symptoms in between visits, you should call your local maternity assessment unit immediately for further guidance and review.  


Treatment of pre-eclampsia includes:

  • Monitoring of you and baby
  • This may need hospital admission initially and or very regular visits with the obstetric team.
  • Regular urine and blood tests
  • More ultrasound scans of baby to check baby’s growth.
  • Medications to lower blood pressure


Your blood pressure will be monitored alongside your symptoms and blood tests to ensure pre-eclampsia is resolving and most improve soon after the baby is delivered. Medications will be reduced/stopped as able depending on your blood pressure and this can be done in the hospital or in the community with the obstetric team or GP.