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Pre-eclampsia is thought to happen when the placenta isn't working properly.


Pre-eclampsia is a condition that occurs only in pregnancy which may affect up to 6% of pregnancies in the UK.

Pre-eclampsia is a combination of raised blood pressure and protein in your urine. The exact cause of this condition is not yet understood.

It may cause the flow of blood through the placenta to be reduced. This means that baby won't get enough oxygen and nutrients, which may restrict his growth. It may also cause less fluid around baby in the womb. Pre-eclampsia usually happens in the second half of pregnancy, or shortly after the birth.

Symptoms of severe pre-eclampsia include:

  • severe headache that doesn’t go away with simple painkillers
  • problems with vision, such as blurring or flashing before the eyes
  • severe pain just below the ribs
  • heartburn that doesn’t go away with antacids
  • feeling very unwell.
  • rapidly increasing swelling of the face, hands or feet


These symptoms are serious and you should seek medical help immediately and if your in doubt your should contact your midwife.

Pre-eclampsia can occur in any pregnancy but you are at higher risk if:

  • it's your first pregnancy
  • you have a pregnancy interval of more than 10 years
  • you are 40 years or older
  • you have a BMI of over 35 or more with a family history of pre-eclampsia
  • this is a multiple pregnancy
  • if you had hypertensive disease during a previous pregnancy
  • you have an autoimmune disease such as lupus or anti-phospholipid syndrome
  • you have raised blood pressure prior to the pregnancy
  • you have renal disease 
  • you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes


Typically a screening Doppler ultrasound scan can be offered to pregnant women which looks at the blood supply to the placenta. It's a very valuable insight used successfully across the World and is recommended, especially if you are considered to be in a high risk group for developing pre-eclampsia. This special test may pick up a if your pregnancy is at a higher risk of developing pre-eclampsia which would normally allow the pregnancy to be monitored more closely by your care providers. 


If you are diagnosed with pre-eclampsia, you should attend for hospital for regular assessment. Your blood pressure will be measured regularly and you may be offered medication to help lower it. You will also have blood tests (PIGF) which measure measure the amount of growth hormone made by your placenta which is affected by pre-eclampsia. Your baby will also be monitored by having more ultrasound scans to measure growth and well being. Unfortunately no diagnostic test is 100% accurate at diagnosing the condition but your care team will use the results of tests to make recommendations about your care. 


If you would like to discuss adding this option on to your pregnancy scans with us please call one of our team and we would be more than happy to help.