Toxemia of pregnancy: causes, symptoms and prevention of preeclampsia (2023)

While waiting for your new baby is a wonderful and exciting time, there are certain medical conditions that you should be aware of for your own safety and that of your babytoxemia of pregnancyIt's one of them.

Pregnancy poisoning, or preeclampsia, is a condition in which the expectant mother's blood pressure rises, affecting the liver and kidneys. A woman often has symptoms such as swelling of the extremities, weight gain, pain in the abdomen.

While there are many harmless physical changes that can occur during pregnancy, toxemia is not one of them.

In fact, it can be extremely dangerous if not caught early.

For example, pregnancy poisoning can lead to premature labor or very low birth weight, and women with more serious conditions can even be hospitalized.

That's why it's so important to educate yourself about your symptoms so you can catch them early, and to talk to your doctor, even if you've had a happy pregnancy so far!

What is preeclampsia or toxemia of pregnancy?

Toxemia of pregnancy: causes, symptoms and prevention of preeclampsia (1)Pregnant women don't have it easy.

From morning sickness to an ever-changing body, pregnancy is anything but easy.

Thanks to the development of science, pregnancy and childbirth are no longer as dangerous and life-threatening as they used to be in the past.

But there are still serious medical conditions that can occur during pregnancy, including pregnancy poisoning (or as medical professionals call it, preeclampsia).

Characterized by arterial hypertension and included in the group of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, it is a relatively rare condition.

Only 2 to 8 percent of pregnant women worldwide are diagnosed with this condition, according to the March of Dimes.

In the United States, 1 in 25 pregnant women will be diagnosed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other symptoms besides high blood pressure include protein in the urine (proteinuria) and swelling of the ankles, hands and face. Some women can even develop ittinnitus during pregnancy.

Also, a woman can gain a lot of weight even if she hasn't drastically changed her eating habits.

There are also headaches, abdominal pain and worsening of vision or visual disturbances (such as double vision).

Toxemia usually occurs in the third trimester, around week 34.

Because some of the preeclampsia symptoms above (particularly swelling) are just a normal symptom of pregnancy, it's important not to panic if you experience any of them.

Your doctor is the only person who can diagnose preeclampsia, and they will make sure they have a complete picture of your symptoms before making a diagnosis.

Because of this, it's important to see your doctor early and disclose anything unusual you've recently noticed in order to get an accurate diagnosis.

In addition to examining your symptoms, the doctor will do urine and blood tests to provide a definitive statement about your condition and will show you all the steps you need to take to stay as healthy as possible until the baby is born.

What causes preeclampsia?

Toxemia of pregnancy: causes, symptoms and prevention of preeclampsia (2)Doctors have not yet been able to identify the exact cause of this condition, although theories abound.

One of the most interesting has to do with how the woman's immune system responds to the fetus.

Some experts believe that the presence of the baby can provoke a reaction from the mother, which can negatively affect blood vessels and blood, leading to preeclampsia.

Other theories have to do with blood vessels getting smaller during pregnancy instead of getting bigger and wider like they should during a healthy pregnancy.

As the blood vessels narrow, the organs cannot get enough blood, leading to blood poisoning.

However, there are factors that put you at a higher risk of developing this condition and your doctor will discuss these with you before making a diagnosis.

Some of these risk factors are:

  • Diabetes;
  • gestational hypertension (blood pressure greater than 140/90 on two measurements 6 hours apart);
  • PCOS (polyzystisches Ovarialsyndrom);
  • older than 40 years;
  • Obesity;
  • nephropathy;
  • chronic hypertension;
  • multiple pregnancy (carrying more than one baby);
  • autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis;
  • successful in vitro fertilization (IVF);

Other high-risk groups include women who are pregnant for the first time, teenage pregnancies, or close relatives who have been diagnosed with the same condition.

Unfortunately, if your doctor diagnoses you with preeclampsia in your current pregnancy, you are at a much higher risk of developing preeclampsia again if you decide to have another baby.

How is the treatment?

Toxemia of pregnancy: causes, symptoms and prevention of preeclampsia (3)Unfortunately, there is no drug that can magically cure this condition other than giving birth to the baby.

However, depending on the severity of your condition, there are steps you can take to prevent the condition from causing complications.

First, you may need to change your eating habits to reduce the amount of salt you eat and increase your protein intake.

Controlling your water intake is also important during this time and should include at least 8 glasses of water per day.

You also need to check your blood pressure.

Your doctor may also recommend bed rest, which can help increase blood flow to the placenta and baby and ensure your child is developing at a healthy rate.

A cesarean can also be scheduled, but many women with preeclampsia can also be induced and deliver the baby vaginally, so this does not automatically mean that a cesarean is your only option.

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If your condition is more serious, you may be taken to a hospital where a medical team can carefully monitor your condition.

Doctors can give corticosteroids for severe preeclampsia, which can speed up the baby's lung development if the baby has to be delivered sooner.

If your blood pressure only rises, you may also be given blood pressure lowering medicines (e.g. hydralazine).

It is important to note that you should only take medication as directed by your doctor and never on your own as it can be dangerous for you and your baby.


Toxemia of pregnancy: causes, symptoms and prevention of preeclampsia (4)If given the choice to prevent or treat preeclampsia, I would obviously choose the former.

No one wants to go through the added stress of illness other than preparing for a new baby!

Although the exact causes of this condition are not always certain, you can minimize your risk by following some of these tips after discussing them with your doctor.

  • Get enough vitamin D naturally through sunlight or by taking prenatal supplements that contain vitamin D, as some scientists have suggested that a deficiency in this area can lead to the development of preeclampsia.
  • Make sure you don't miss your prenatal appointments.
  • Leading a healthy lifestyle, which may include exercise and drinking.Pregnancy Smoothies, as it can help prevent excessive weight gain.
  • Doctors may also sometimes prescribe aspirin to women at high risk.

Possible complications and consequences

Toxemia of pregnancy: causes, symptoms and prevention of preeclampsia (5)As with all diseases, complications can arise, and one of the most serious in this case is called HELLP syndrome. HELLP refers to hemolysis (breaking down of red blood cells), elevated liver enzymes (meaning liver function has been compromised), and low platelet count (meaning blood is not clotting properly).

If you experience vomiting, tiredness, blurred vision, chest or abdominal pain, nose or gum bleeding, and swollen hands or face, seek medical attention immediately.

Another consequence of toxemia of pregnancy is the restriction of fetal growth that occurs when the baby is born small and of low birth weight due to poor perfusion of the placenta.

It can also lead to preterm labor.

Preeclampsia also increases your future chances of cardiovascular disease.

If left untreated, the condition can progress to eclampsia, which is a more serious condition that includes eclamptic seizures.

One of the most extreme consequences of toxemia is placental abruption, which occurs when the placenta detaches from the uterus and can result in a stillbirth.


Being diagnosed with a condition like toxemia while waiting for your child to be born can be incredibly stressful, especially when you start reading about all the things that could go wrong!

And while reading about your condition can be very beneficial to your health, remember not to fall down the rabbit hole of constantly Googling every little symptom; it will only increase your stress level.

At this point, it's best to stay calm and heed the doctor's advice and remember the many women who have already made this journey and delivered perfectly healthy babies.

And I'm sure you are too.


“Preeclampsia” published by March of Dimes on the March of Dimes website in December 2017.

"High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy" published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website on January 28, 2020.

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