Pre-eclampsia is a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy characterized by the onset of high blood pressure and elevated levels of protein in the urine. If severe in nature, pre-eclampsia can cause organ damage, including cell breakdown, a low blood platelet count, impaired liver function, kidney dysfunction, swelling, shortness of breath due to fluid in the lungs, and visual disturbances. If pre-eclampsia is not properly treated, it may result in seizures in the mother, which then shifts the diagnosis from pre-eclampsia to eclampsia. Risk factors for pre-eclampsia include hypertension, advanced maternal age, obesity, and diabetes. Pre-eclampsia occurs most frequently in a woman’s first pregnancy or if the pregnancy involves twins.
Pre-eclampsia leads to poor outcomes for the fetus when the condition is not adequately treated. Pre-eclampsia can lead to preterm birth, placental abruption, intrauterine growth restriction, and low birthweight, among other problems for the fetus. When improperly treated, pre-eclampsia can also lead to decreased perfusion across the placenta, which in turn increases the risk of organ and brain damage to the baby.