Risk of Pre-Eclampsia


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While not exactly a common condition, pre-eclampsia still affects a significant number of women across the world. Pre-eclampsia is still not completely understood, but at present it is thought that abnormalities in the development of the placenta, an organ designed to transport much needed nutrition from mother to child, causes the high blood pressure and proteinuria (the abnormal presence of protein in the urine) characteristic of pre-eclampsia. This article deals with the question of who in particular is at risk of pre-eclampsia according to the present understanding of the condition. It is important to remember however, that these are general risk factors which might not apply in every case. The best thing you can do for your health during a pregnancy is to be aware of the symptoms of pre-eclampsia, and to report them as soon as you notice anything untoward.

Risk factors of pre-eclampsia

The risk of pre-eclampsia is actually much higher during first pregnancies than any subsequent ones, and while the reasons behind this are still not completely understood, it has been well established that this is the case. Similarly, if there is a ten year gap between pregnancies then the same rule is applied, for some reason that is not completely understood your risk of developing pre-eclampsia is much higher.

Family history plays an important part in the development of many illnesses, including, for example, pre-eclampsia. This is because genes, the code by which all our body’s various functions are programmed, are passed down through the generations. Pre-eclampsia seems to have some genetic component as a family history of the condition means that you are much more likely to develop it.

If you have had pre-eclampsia in the past, then you are more likely to develop the condition in subsequent pregnancies. It is thought that there is about a 20% chance of developing pre-eclampsia in later pregnancies if you have suffered from the condition in the past.

Age seems to play a factor in the onset of pre-eclampsia. If you are either a teenager or above the age of 40 you are at a higher risk of developing the condition.

Other medical issues can contribute to the risk of developing the condition, and examples of these include an existing history of high blood pressure, kidney problems, diabetes and/or migraines. Obesity can be counted as one of these (even if you were only obese at the very beginning of the pregnancy) as clinical obesity (having a BMI of above 30) usually involves some degree of high blood pressure.

Bearing twins or triplets places much more stress on the placenta, which is can vastly increase the chances of developing pre-eclampsia.

Again these are only general risk factors which have been associated with the condition, and by no means mean that you are definitely going to get pre-eclampsia, or indeed that you definitely won’t develop pre-eclampsia.


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