What's Preeclampsia Swelling Like? What Are Other Symptoms?

Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy which presents as high blood pressure and damage to another organ, mainly the kidney. You are more likely to experience preeclampsia swelling after you are 37 weeks pregnant. However, it can affect you any time in the second half of pregnancy, even within the first 48 hours after delivery. You can develop symptoms of preeclampsia before 20 weeks, but that happens rarely, especially when you are dealing with a molar pregnancy. Even if you are experiencing mild symptoms, it is important to take necessary steps to avoid complications.  

What Is Preeclampsia?

Characterized by high blood pressure, preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that can cause serious damage to the kidneys or another organ system. It usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Keep in mind that even a slight rise in blood pressure may indicate preeclampsia in pregnant women.

The condition can have life-threatening consequences when left untreated. It can be dangerous for you and your baby. Preeclampsia can be severe or mild. It sometimes progresses rapidly, but it may not progress at the same pace for every patient. Your doctor screens you for preeclampsia at every prenatal visit by checking your urine sample for protein and taking your blood pressure. They will inform you if they notice preeclampsia swelling or another sign.

Preeclampsia Swelling and Other Symptoms

What’s the Swelling Like?

Sudden swelling in your hands and face, puffiness around the eyes, and excessive weight gain may well be the early signs of preeclampsia. It usually means you will be gaining more than 2.2 pounds in a week due to the excessive fluid retention. Compared to normal edema, this swelling is more severe. 

Preeclampsia swelling is the outcome of leakage of fluid from your capillaries into your tissues. This may even lead to the leakage of tiny blood vessels in your kidneys, which will release protein from your bloodstream into your urine. Your doctor checks for the presence of this protein to diagnose preeclampsia.

You will notice different symptoms at different stages of pregnancy. The symptoms will also change and become severe as preeclampsia progresses.

Early Signs and Symptoms

The early symptoms are protein in urine and high blood pressure. You do not usually notice these symptoms until your GP discovers it during your routine appointments. You need to keep in mind that hypertension affects about 15% of all pregnant women, so this alone does not mean you have preeclampsia.

Further Symptoms

With the progression of preeclampsia, you will start to notice other symptoms as well. You may experience severe headaches, severe heartburn, nausea, and pain just below the ribs. You may also develop vision problems, such as seeing flashing lights and blurring. Weight gain due to fluid retention and sudden swelling of the ankles, feet, face, and hands are also symptoms of preeclampsia. If preeclampsia is not controlled it can develop into Eclampsia, which is preeclampsia plus seizures, and can also cause change in mental status.


Always bear in mind that you should seek immediately medical attention if you notice preeclampsia swelling or other symptoms because it may lead to several complications without immediate treatment. The most common complications include convulsions, stroke, and HELLP syndrome. HELLP syndrome refers to a condition characterized by the destruction of red blood cells, low platelet count, and elevated liver enzymes. It can be a life-threatening complication. The most common symptoms of HELLP syndrome are headache, vomiting, nausea, and upper right abdominal pain.

Signs in the Unborn Baby

The unborn baby will show signs of slow growth, which is due to poor blood supply through the placenta. The growing baby won't receive enough oxygen and nutrients to grow like a healthy baby. This is called intra-uterine growth restriction. This may also cause issues such as placental abruption and too little amniotic fluid. Your doctor will inform you if they notice your baby growing more slowly than usual.

What to Do About It?

The most important thing is to confirm you have preeclampsia swelling, but not common pregnancy edema. Your doctor will monitor your blood pressure and notice if it is elevated than normal. They will also ask for a urine test to find protein in the urine. Your blood pressure is on the higher side when it is higher than 140/90.  It is important to confirm though that your blood pressure is consistently high.

Once it is confirmed that you have preeclampsia, your doctor will help manage it depending on its different stages. It can be severe or mild and may or may not be affecting your baby.

You are 37 weeks pregnant and have mid preeclampsia

Your doctor will recommend induction, especially if they believe your cervix has already started to think out. They may recommend a C-section if they think your baby is too weak to tolerate labor.

You are under 37 weeks pregnant and have mild preeclampsia

You doctor won't suggest you to deliver right away, but they will monitor your blood pressure closely. You may even need to stay in the hospital until your delivery. Resting may help lower your blood pressure. You will need to deliver if at any time the symptoms become worse.

You have severe preeclampsia

You will have to remain in the hospital until you deliver. In some cases, you need to take magnesium sulphate – your doctor will give it intravenously to prevent seizures. You also need to take medication to manage your blood pressure. You may be induced if you are already 34 weeks pregnant – you may have to go for a C-section in this case. Your doctor will give you corticosteroids if you are less than 34 weeks pregnant - corticosteroids help your baby's lung to grow quickly.

You develop preeclampsia during labor

You may or may not be giving magnesium sulfate when you develop this condition during labor. You will have to stay under supervision even after delivery because HELLP syndrome often develops within the first 48 hours of delivery. 

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