The only cure for preeclampsia is delivery. You're at increased risk of seizures, placental abruption, stroke and possibly severe bleeding until your blood pressure decreases. Of course, if it's too early in your pregnancy, delivery may not be the best thing for your baby.
If you're diagnosed with preeclampsia, your doctor will let you know how often you'll need to come in for prenatal visits — likely more frequently than what's typically recommended for pregnancy. You'll also need more-frequent blood tests, ultrasounds and nonstress tests than would be expected in an uncomplicated pregnancy.
Possible treatment for preeclampsia may include:
- Medications to lower blood pressure. These medications, called antihypertensives, are used to lower your blood pressure if it's dangerously high. Blood pressure in the 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) range generally isn't treated. Although there are many different types of antihypertensive medications, a number of them aren't safe to use during pregnancy. Discuss with your doctor whether you need to use an antihypertensive medicine in your situation to control your blood pressure.
- Corticosteroids. If you have severe preeclampsia or HELLP syndrome, corticosteroid medications can temporarily improve liver and platelet function to help prolong your pregnancy. Corticosteroids can also help your baby's lungs become more mature in as little as 48 hours — an important step in preparing a premature baby for life outside the womb.
- Anticonvulsant medications. If your preeclampsia is severe, your doctor may prescribe an anticonvulsant medication, such as magnesium sulfate, to prevent a first seizure.
Bed rest used to be routinely recommended for women with preeclampsia. But research hasn't shown a benefit from this practice, and it can increase your risk of blood clots, as well as impact your economic and social lives. For most women, bed rest is no longer recommended.
Severe preeclampsia may require that you be hospitalized. In the hospital, your doctor may perform regular nonstress tests or biophysical profiles to monitor your baby's well-being and measure the volume of amniotic fluid. A lack of amniotic fluid is a sign of poor blood supply to the baby.
If you're diagnosed with preeclampsia near the end of your pregnancy, your doctor may recommend inducing labor right away. The readiness of your cervix — whether it's beginning to open (dilate), thin (efface) and soften (ripen) — also may be a factor in determining whether or when labor will be induced.
In severe cases, it may not be possible to consider your baby's gestational age or the readiness of your cervix. If it's not possible to wait, your doctor may induce labor or schedule a C-section right away. During delivery, you may be given magnesium sulfate intravenously to prevent seizures.
After delivery, expect your blood pressure to return to normal within 12 weeks but usually much sooner. If you need pain-relieving medication after your delivery, ask your doctor what you should take. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve), can increase your blood pressure. Acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) is usually a safe alternative.
Jul. 03, 2014
- Hypertension in pregnancy. Washington, D.C.: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. 2013. http://www.acog.org/Resources_And_Publications/Task_Force_and_Work_Group_Reports/Hypertension_in_Pregnancy. Accessed Dec. 12, 2013.
- August P, et al. Preeclampsia: Clinical features and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 16, 2013.
- Vest AR, et al. Hypertension in pregnancy. Cardiology Clinics. 2012;30:407.
- Karumanchi SA, et al. Pathogenesis of preeclampsia. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 17, 2013.
- Kim YJ. Pathogenesis and promising non-invasive markers for preeclampsia. Obstetrics and Gynecology Science. 2013;56:2.
- Deak TM, et al. Hypertension and pregnancy. Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America. 2012;30:903.
- Norwitz ER, et al. Preeclampsia: Management and prognosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 16, 2013.
- Bushnell C, et al. Guidelines for the prevention of stroke in women: A statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke. In press. Accessed Feb. 10, 2014.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.