Preeclampsia can also happen after you've given birth

February 2, 2022

Preeclampsia is a serious blood pressure condition that can happen after the 20th week of pregnancy or after giving birth (called postpartum preeclampsia). Pregnant people who have preeclampsia develop high blood pressure and may have signs that some of their organs, like the kidneys and liver, may not be working normally.

Although postpartum preeclampsia is a rare condition, it’s also very dangerous. Postpartum preeclampsia most often happens within 48 hours of having a baby, but it can develop up to 6 weeks after your baby’s birth. According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, postpartum preeclampsia can happen even to those who didn’t have high blood pressure during their pregnancy. Postpartum preeclampsia can be more dangerous than preeclampsia during pregnancy because it can be hard to identify.

After your baby is born, your attention is mostly focused on their needs. To identify the signs of postpartum preeclampsia, you also need to pay attention to your body and how you are feeling. Identifying the signs and symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia and getting help right away is extremely important. Postpartum preeclampsia needs to be treated immediately to avoid serious complications, including death.

Signs and symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia may include:

  • Changes in vision, like blurriness, flashing lights, seeing spots or being sensitive to light
  • Headache that doesn’t go away
  • Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), vomiting or dizziness
  • Pain in the upper right belly area or the shoulder
  • Swelling in the legs, hands or face
  • Trouble breathing
  • Too much protein in your urine and decreased urination
  • High blood pressure (140/90 or higher)

You can also have preeclampsia without any symptoms.

What can you do?

It’s easy to confuse the symptoms of preeclampsia with symptoms that normally happen after giving birth. Symptoms such as like being tired or experiencing swelling can be deceiving.

  • Go to your postpartum checkup, even if you’re feeling fine.
  • Know how to identify the signs and symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia.
  • If you have any of the previous signs or symptoms, tell your provider right away. If you can’t talk to your provider right away, call emergency services (911) or ask to be taken to an emergency room.

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