While the cause of preeclampsia is unknown, doctors do know that certain factors will increase a woman's chances of developing the condition. These are known as preeclampsia risk factors. These risk factors include:
- Having chronic hypertension (high blood pressure) before becoming pregnant
- Being obese prior to pregnancy
- Having developed high blood pressure or preeclampsia during a previous pregnancy, especially if these conditions occurred early in the pregnancy
- Being pregnant under the age of 20 or over the age of 40
- Being pregnant with more than one baby
- Having diabetes, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus (SLE), or scleroderma.
Symptoms will vary, depending on the severity of the preeclampsia. They usually include:
- High blood pressure
- Swelling of the hands and face
- Abnormal weight gain
- Protein in the urine.
Other symptoms may include:
- Vision problems (including blurred vision, spots, or sensitivity to light)
- Abdominal pain
These possible preeclampsia symptoms can be caused by other conditions, too. They can also occur in healthy pregnancies. For example, a woman's feet might swell with preeclampsia, but swollen feet are common during healthy pregnancies; swollen feet do not always mean there is a problem.
Regular visits with your doctor help him or her to:
- Track your blood pressure and level of protein in your urine
- Order and analyze blood tests that detect signs of preeclampsia
- Monitor fetal development more closely.
(Click Preeclampsia Symptoms for a closer look at possible symptoms.)