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Preeclampsia in the United States & Worldwide

Pregnant Woman Practicing Yoga
Doctor Examining a Pregnant Woman

Preeclampsia is a disease in pregnancy that often starts with high blood pressure.  The cause of preeclampsia is not clear, but it can seriously impact the health of both mother and child.


United States

  • 16% of maternal deaths are due to preeclampsia.³

  • 10,500 babies die because of preeclampsia each year.⁴

  • The incidence of preeclampsia has increased by 25% in the last 20 years.⁵



  • Preeclampsia affects 5–8% of pregnancies.³

  • Preeclampsia and eclampsia are in the top 3 causes of maternal illness and death.⁶

  • 10–15% of maternal deaths are due to preeclampsia or eclampsia.⁷

Preeclampsia is Difficult to Diagnose

Preeclampsia Symptom Chart.png



Red Circles: Symptoms the patient may notice.

Grey Circles: Diagnostic cues the doctor may detect.

Questions: Alternatives that must be considered before diagnosis.  

Preeclampsia is difficult to diagnose. In the US, there are no diagnostic tests for preeclampsia approved by the FDA.⁸⁻⁹ 

The symptoms used to diagnose preeclampsia can be caused by other conditions. Doctors consider other symptoms to reach a diagnosis such as a low platelet count, poor liver or kidney function, fluid in the lungs and visual disturbances or severe headache.¹⁰

Delivery of the baby is the only cure for preeclampsia.


Doctors face a dilemma when a patient has symptoms.  An early delivery impacts the health of the baby.  Delaying delivery may be very risky for the mother and possibly the child.  The doctor’s decision is even harder if they are unsure of the diagnosis.

A diagnostic test could help doctors rule out preeclampsia in many patients, and determine which patients need more care or an early delivery.

Additional information about preeclampsia is available on the Preeclampsia Foundation website.


1.  The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Hypertension in Pregnancy. Updated November 2013. Accessed March 24, 2017.

2.  Shih T, et al. Am J Perinatol. 2016; 33:329-38.

3. Preeclampsia Foundation FAQs Web site. Updated December 20, 2013. Accessed January 17, 2017.

4. Wallis AB, Saftlas AF, Hsia J, Atrash HK. Am J Hypertens. “Secular trends in the rates of preeclampsia, eclampsia, and gestational hypertension. United States, 1987-2004.” 2008;21(5):521-6.

5. Ghulmiyyah L, et al. Semin Perinatol. 2012; 36:56–9.

6. Duley L. Semin Perinatol. 2009; 33:130–7.

7. Wagner, L. American Family Physician. “Diagnosis and Management of Preeclampsia.”

8. Lockwood, C. Contemporary OB/GYN. Editorial: “Incremental progress in predicting preeclampsia.” March 21, 2016.

9. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “Hypertension in pregnancy.” 2013.

10. ACOG Committee on Practice Bulletins—Obstetrics. Obstet Gynecol. 2002; 99(1):159-67.

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