What happens to your baby when you have preeclampsia

Quick notes:

  • A doctor will usually diagnose a mom with preeclampsia when they find she has elevated blood pressure

  • If the condition isn’t caught early enough, serious health problems or even death can occur

  • The biggest issue for an unborn baby is that the placenta can become compromised.

As an expecting mother, there is always something to worry about. From what a weirdly-timed baby kick could mean to the circumstances behind a mysterious leg cramp, pregnancy can send even the calmest of moms-to-be into a cycle of worry.

Preeclampsia concerns are no different. If you have high blood pressure or an increase in protein in your urine, your doctor may have spoken to you about what preeclampsia is and what should look out for. This guide will not only go over the basics of preeclampsia but also what a diagnosis may mean for the health of your baby.

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What is preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a hypertensive disorder that is typically diagnosed after the 20th week of pregnancy and, in exceptional cases, can even manifest after a baby is born. A doctor will usually diagnose a mom with preeclampsia when they find she has elevated blood pressure that rises rather than subsides, and protein in her urine.   

In the United States, approximately 5-8% of all births are affected by preeclampsia. According to preeclampsia.org, in the last two decades cases of preeclampsia have increased by 25%. While most women with preeclampsia deliver healthy babies, if the condition isn’t caught early enough, serious health problems or even death can occur.

How preeclampsia affects the baby

Doctors today are vigilant about watching for the signs of preeclampsia. That’s because the condition is so serious. It can cause brain injury, impair kidney and liver functions, and cause problems with blood clotting. Because of this blood flow is often restricted to the placenta. Babies can be born small and premature or bigger than average.

Worldwide, around 20% of preterm babies born are premature due to preeclampsia complications. If a baby who’s a mother has preeclampsia is born before 32 weeks gestation, she can face numerous health issues.

The biggest issue for an unborn baby is that the placenta can become compromised and the baby won’t be able to receive the proper nutrients they need to support their heart and brain. As a result, babies born from a mother with severe preeclampsia or preeclampsia that wasn’t diagnosed or managed can suffer from cerebral palsy, epilepsy, learning disorders, blinds, or deafness.

Preeclampsia treatments

More often than not, the symptoms of Preeclampsia are a silent threat and a mother-to-be may not be aware that she’s experiencing a problem. Patients with the condition are typically diagnosed after a routine urine and blood test which is conducted at their doctor’s office. This is one of the reasons why it is crucial for mothers to stay on top of their prenatal appointments. If an expecting mom skips or misses too many appointments, high blood pressure can go undiagnosed.

While there is no cure for preeclampsia, if it is found early a mother may be prescribed blood pressure medication in order to keep their blood pressure under control. Bed rest and time off of work may also be recommended.

If blood pressure can remain in check, doctors will usually allow the baby to reach full term. Once the baby is full-term, or if preeclampsia and the mother’s blood pressure isn’t staying under control, delivery of the baby and the placenta is the only resolution.

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