Pre-eclampsia: signs and symptoms

There are so many changes going on in the body throughout pregnancy that it can be hard to know what’s normal and what’s not.


With that in mind, most of us are aware of the dangers of pre-eclampsia so it is vital mums-to-be know the signs to look out for.



Another normal symptom of pregnancy, a severe headache with throbbing pain can be a sign of pre-eclampsia. Always contact your GP if it doesn’t seem to be going away and particularly if it starts to affect your vision.


High blood pressure

High blood pressure is a sign that pre-eclampsia might be developing. Your GP will keep a log of all your blood pressure checking it at every visit.


Protein in urine

Pre-eclampsia can temporarily damage the filtering role of your kidneys which confines protein to your blood. This causes protein to spill into your urine. Look out for dark or red coloured urine which might indicate an underlying problem.


Swelling in your face or hands

While most mums-to-be experience some form of swelling in the later stages, swollen hands and face can be a sign of edema which is an accumulation of excess fluid. Your GP will advise you to elevate your feet but not sit down for too long.


Changes in vision

It is vital you contact your medical advisor immediately if you experience any changes in vision including blurriness, spots, flashing lights or light sensitivity as it can be a sign of swelling on the brain or cerebral edema.


Increased and sudden weight gain

Putting on weight is part and parcel of pregnancy but if it is sudden and dramatic it can be a sign that damaged blood vessels are allowing water leak into your tissue and not be excreted a symptom of pre-eclampsia. 


HELLP is a variant of pre-eclampsia occurring in the later stages of pregnancy and sometimes after birth and is extremely dangerous.


It can be diagnosed after a woman has pre-eclampsia so it is important to be aware of the symptoms:


  • High blood pressure
  • Protein in the urine
  • Headache
  • Nausea/vomiting/indigestion 
  • Abdominal or chest tenderness
  • Shoulder pain
  • Pain when breathing deeply
  • Bleeding
  • Changes in vision
  • Swelling


Always contact your midwife or doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms immediately.


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