A rare but serious condition that occurs in a woman in late pregnancy, during childbirth, or after delivery. Eclampsia is characterised by hypertension (high blood pressure), oedema, proteinuria (protein in the urine) and the development of seizures. The condition can be fatal for both the mother and the baby. Eclampsia occurs as a complication of severe or moderate, although not mild pre-eclampsia.
The warning symptoms of oncoming eclampsia include confusion, headaches, blurred or disturbed vision, and abdominal pain. If left untreated, seizures can occur and can be followed by a coma. Liver and kidney function can also be affected. Levels of blood platelets can fall extremely, resulting in bleeding.
Treatment and outlook
Vigilant monitoring of blood pressure and proteinuria throughout the pregnancy is required to enable prompt treatment of possible eclampsia, and immediate delivery, often by caesarean section, along with antihypertensive drugs and anticonvulsant drugs are needed. Patients could need intensive care to prevent the development of complications, for example kidney failure.
Blood pressure generally returns to normal in the months after delivery, however it can remain high. There is also a risk of a recurrence of eclampsia in further pregnancies.