Skip to main content

Back to patient information homepage


Published: 08/08/2012

Pre-eclampsia is a condition that typically occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It is a combination of raised blood pressure (hypertension) and protein in your urine (proteinuria). Often there are no symptoms and it may be picked up at your routine antenatal appointments.

The exact cause of pre-eclampsia is not understood. Pre-eclampsia is common, affecting between two and eight in 100 women during pregnancy. It is usually mild and normally has very little effect in pregnancy. However, it's important to know if you have the condition because, in a small number of cases, it can develop into a more serious illness. Severe pre-eclampsia (which around one in 200 women, or 0.5%, develop during pregnancy) can be life-threatening for both mother and baby.

This information leaflet explains:

  • What pre-eclampsia is
  • Why you need to know if you have pre-eclampsia
  • How pre-eclampsia may affect your baby
  • Who is at risk of pre-eclampsia and how it can be prevented
  • How pre-eclampsia is monitored
  • What happens if you develop severe pre-eclampsia
  • What happens after the birth
  • Risks of pre-eclampsia in a future pregnancy

This information is based on the archived RCOG clinical guideline Management of Severe Pre-eclampsia/Eclampsia and the NICE guidance The Management of Hypertensive Disorders during Pregnancy.

Give us your feedback

If you have recently read one of our leaflets, please give us feedback by completing this short questionnaire