Preeclampsia is a serious blood pressure disorder that can cause your organs not to work. It usually occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy, but it can also occur after your baby is born.

Complications of preeclampsia

Along with seizures (eclampsia), preeclampsia can also lead to HELLP syndrome. This condition is a medical emergency.

Preeclampsia, eclampsia, and HELLP syndrome can cause life-long problems and even death.

Having preeclampsia increases your risk of having it again with your next pregnancy.

Pregnant people who have preeclampsia have an increased risk of other conditions later in life. These include high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

Learn more about preeclampsia including:

  • risk factors
  • serious complications (problems)
  • treatment.

When to call your health care provider

It is possible to develop preeclampsia after you give birth or for it to get worse after you go home.

Call your health care provider right away if you have any of these signs of preeclampsia:

  • sudden weight gain (more than 2 pounds in 1 day or 5 pounds in 1 week)
  • swelling in your hands or face
  • pain in your upper abdomen or shoulder (may feel like heartburn)
  • trouble breathing
  • any changes in your eyesight (seeing spots, blurred vision, blind spots, flashes of light)
  • a headache that will not go away
  • nausea (upset stomach) or vomiting (throwing up).

Call 911 or have someone take you to the nearest hospital Emergency Department if you have:

  • chest pain that does not go away
  • severe shortness of breath.

Source: Allina Health Patient Education, Beginnings: Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, eighth edition, ob-ah-90026
First Published: 10/04/2002
Last Reviewed: 12/06/2021