Preeclampsia And Eclampsia

What Is It?

Preeclampsia is a condition that occurs only during pregnancy, and usually only after the 20th week. A woman with preeclampsia develops high blood pressure and protein in her urine, and she often has swelling (edema) of the legs, hands, face, or entire body. When preeclampsia becomes severe, it can cause dangerous complications for the mother and the fetus. One of these complications is eclampsia, the name for seizures that are associated with severe preeclampsia.

Experts are still not entirely sure what causes preeclampsia, but recent research has provided some good clues. The best hypothesis is that preeclampsia occurs when the placenta does not anchor itself as deeply as expected within the wall of the uterus during the first trimester. What causes this abnormal anchoring is unclear, but it may be influenced by the mother's or father's genes or the mother's immune system, and medical conditions the mother may have, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

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