Most women with preeclampsia deliver healthy babies. The more severe your preeclampsia and the earlier it occurs in your pregnancy, however, the greater the risks for you and your baby. Preeclampsia may require induced labor and delivery. Cesarean birth isn't always needed in these cases. But your doctor might recommend cesarean delivery if inducing labor becomes difficult due to the gestational age of your baby. The earlier the gestational age, the more difficult inducing labor might be.

Complications of preeclampsia may include:

  • Lack of blood flow to the placenta. Preeclampsia affects the arteries carrying blood to the placenta. If the placenta doesn't get enough blood, your baby may receive less oxygen and fewer nutrients. This can lead to slow growth, low birth weight, preterm birth and breathing difficulties for your baby.
  • Placental abruption. Preeclampsia increases your risk of placental abruption, in which the placenta separates from the inner wall of your uterus before delivery. Severe abruption can cause heavy bleeding and damage to the placenta, which can be life-threatening for both you and your baby.
  • HELLP syndrome. HELLP — which stands for hemolysis (the destruction of red blood cells), elevated liver enzymes and low platelet count — syndrome can rapidly become life-threatening for both you and your baby. Symptoms of HELLP syndrome include nausea and vomiting, headache, and upper right abdominal pain. HELLP syndrome is particularly dangerous because it can occur before signs or symptoms of preeclampsia appear.
  • Eclampsia. When preeclampsia isn't controlled, eclampsia — which is essentially preeclampsia plus seizures — can develop. Symptoms of eclampsia include upper right abdominal pain, severe headache, vision problems and change in mental status, such as decreased alertness. Eclampsia can permanently damage your vital organs, including your brain, liver and kidneys. Left untreated, eclampsia can cause coma, brain damage and death for both you and your baby.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Having preeclampsia may increase your risk of future cardiovascular disease.
Apr. 21, 2011