Preeclampsia is a very serious condition that can arise during the latter stages of your pregnancy, generally after your 20th week. The Mayo Clinic explains that preeclampsia represents a life-threatening situation for both you and your unborn child.

Preeclampsia has to do with your blood pressure level and occurs when that level becomes too high. Specifically, two blood pressure readings of 140/90 mmHg or higher constitute an almost certain indication of preeclampsia.

Causes

No one knows why some pregnant women develop preeclampsia while others do not. However, experts generally agree that the condition begins in the placenta, the special organ in your body that nourishes your developing baby throughout your pregnancy.

In preeclamptic women, the new blood vessels that form early in your pregnancy fail to develop and function properly. Again, no one knows why, but theories include the following:

  • The blood vessels become damaged.
  • You have an immune system problem.
  • You have insufficient blood flow to your uterus.
  • You carry certain genes that predispose you to preeclampsia.

Complications

Unfortunately, the only known “cure” for preeclampsia is delivery of your baby. However, this presents a serious problem if you develop serious preeclampsia before your baby has sufficiently matured to survive a preterm birth. Both you and (s)he face such life-threatening situations as the following:

  • Fetal growth restriction
  • Placental abruption, a situation where your placenta separates from the wall of your uterus
  • HEELP syndrome, a situation which destroys your red blood cells, elevates your liver enzymes and lowers your platelet count

Any of the above requires immediate emergency medical intervention to save your life and that of your baby.