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 Eclampsia | All you need to know


Eclampsia is the ghost that haunts the pregnancy of every hypertensive woman.

The pregnant woman remains in a state of anticipation and fear throughout the pregnancy, and she prays to God that her child comes to this world healthy and in good health.

So let us learn what eclampsia is? What are its symptoms and causes? And the effect on the fetus, risk factors and treatment, and how to prevent it?


What is Eclampsia?

Eclampsia is a serious complication of preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia could deteriorate to eclampsia, although rare but extremely risky during pregnancy.

Blood pressure rises, causing episodes of disturbed brain activity, which in turn causes bouts of staring, convulsions, and inattention.

High blood pressure leads to a lack of blood flow to the fetus through the placenta, and consequently, the percentage of oxygen and nutrients it needs drops; Therefore, the fetus is at huge risk.

One in 200 women with preeclampsia develops eclampsia.


Symptoms of eclampsia

Preeclampsia may lead to eclampsia; Therefore, a pregnant woman may often experience the same symptoms.

These symptoms may be the result of another disease such as diabetes and kidney disease; Therefore, you must visit a doctor to determine the primary cause and treat it.


Preeclampsia signs and symptoms

Symptoms are as follows:

  • Hypertension.
  • The appearance of protein in the urine.
  • Swelling of the face, hands, and feet.
  • Headache.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Vision problems: such as loss or double vision.
  • Difficulty urinating.
  • Abdominal pain, especially in the upper right corner.
  • Shortness of breath caused by a buildup of fluid in the lungs.


Eclampsia signs and symptoms

The patient may have symptoms of preeclampsia, and may also not have any symptoms before eclampsia occurs. 

Common symptoms include:

  • Seizures.
  • Unconsciousness.
  • Cramps.


What are the causes of eclampsia?

Researchers haven’t been able to discover the cause yet; Each case is unique, and patients may sometimes share similar symptoms.

But some reasons may lead to eclampsia, such as:

  • Problems with the immune system.
  • Genetic factors.
  • Blood vessel damage.
  • Insufficient blood flow to the uterus.


Eclampsia during pregnancy is most common in the third trimester or after the twentieth week, but the rate increases in the ninth month.


Risk factors of eclampsia

Risk factors of eclampsia

The chance of eclampsia may increase with:

  • Preeclampsia.
  • Previous poisoning.
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy (gestational hypertension) or chronic hypertension.
  • Diabetes.
  • Pregnancy with twins or triplets.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Pregnancy before the age of twenty or after thirty-five.
  • First pregnancy.


Eclampsia diagnosis

Diagnosis begins with measuring blood pressure since a rate of more than 140/90 is the first indicator of danger, particularly if the woman has never had high blood pressure before and the bouts last for several hours.

The appearance of some or all of the following eclampsia complications after the twentieth week of pregnancy help in diagnosis; for example:

  • Proteinuria.
  • Low platelet count.
  • The presence of visual disturbances.
  • Kidney problems.
  • The presence of fluid in the lungs.
  • Deterioration in liver function;

In this case, the doctor needs some tests to confirm the presence of eclampsia, including the following:


Blood tests

The doctor needs a complete blood picture to determine the number of red blood cells and platelets.

Blood tests are also valuable in checking liver and kidney functions.

Creatinine test

Creatinine is a waste product produced by the muscles and excreted by the kidneys. 

However, in kidney disease, the proportion of creatinine accumulates and increases in the blood, which indicates eclampsia, but this increase does not prove its existence.


This test determines the presence of protein in the urine and its excretion rate.

Fetal Ultrasound

The doctor uses an ultrasound to monitor the fetus’s growth and weight and determine the amount of fluid inside the uterus.

Nonstress test

Also called a biophysical profile, this test checks the fetus’s heart rate during its movements. 

It also measures the fetus’s breathing rate and muscle tone.



Treatment depends on the doctor’s assessment of the condition of the mother and fetus, as follows:

The doctor continues to follow developments until the time of delivery and monitors their condition well as long as the health of the mother and fetus is stable.

But you may need more checks and periodic blood tests especially if eclampsia occurs in the seventh month.

Treatment in this case also includes the use of certain medications, such as:


Antihypertensive drugs

The doctor gives drugs to lower blood pressure in the event of dangerously high blood pressure and in light of the variety of drugs available for treatment.

However, most of them are not suitable for pregnancy. 

Therefore, the doctor determines the treatment type according to his assessment.



Corticosteroids temporarily improve liver and platelet function, helping to prolong pregnancy.

It also helps in lung maturation and development, which prepares the fetus for birth under any circumstances.


Anticonvulsant drugs

The doctor prescribes anticonvulsants such as magnesium sulfate to avoid seizures, especially in cases of severe preeclampsia.

However, if the condition is late and unstable, the doctor performs an emergency cesarean section, even if the delivery is unscheduled, to avoid the risks and dangerous complications to the mother and fetus, such as;

  • Placental abruption.
  • Brain stroke.
  • Seizures.
  • Bleeding.


Is eclampsia fatal?

Unfortunately, eclampsia kills about 50,000 women worldwide each year, but many cases are treated, especially if diagnosed early.



Eclampsia after cesarean delivery

Postpartum eclampsia rarely occurs and is not associated with maternal hypertension or preeclampsia, but if it occurs it prolongs postpartum recovery.

Its symptoms are similar to eclampsia during pregnancy.

The doctor monitors the condition and gives the necessary medications until the mother recovers completely.


Eclampsia prevention 

If the mother suffers from high blood pressure or has a history of eclampsia, she should do the following:

  • Exercise and diet.
  • Reduce the proportion of salt added to food.
  • Drink a large amount of water daily.
  • Reduce caffeine.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Avoid alcoholic beverages.
  • Take the necessary medicines on time.
  • Avoid fast foods.


In conclusion, a mother is advised to follow up on her pregnancy firsthand and not neglect any new symptoms, especially if she suffers from high blood pressure.

Also, to take all the possible preventive measures. 


Read Also;

The best diet for a pregnant woman | What not to eat?

Can you get pregnant right after your period ends?

Translated by
Dr. Basant Mohamed Atef

Translator. Dr. Basant Atef

I am a pharmacist with a Ph.D. in microbiology. Passionate about delivering medical sciences to others. I love explaining and researching medical information in both Arabic and English. It always bothered me that medical information in Arabic is so scarce, so I took it upon myself to help change that. So, I specialized in SEO medical content writing as well as medical translation. When I am not working on that, you’ll find me out exploring the world with my two wonderful boys.
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