Preeclampsia and pregnancy-related death

Preeclampsia is a serious blood pressure condition that can happen after the 20th week of pregnancy or after giving birth (called postpartum preeclampsia). It affects 2 to 8 percent of pregnancies worldwide (2 to 8 in 100). In the last two decades, the rate of preeclampsia in the United States has increased by 25 percent. In this country, preeclampsia is a leading cause of pregnancy-related death and the cause of 15 percent of premature births.

The United States is facing a maternal health crisis.

A pregnancy-related death is when a woman dies during pregnancy or within 1 year after pregnancy from health problems related to pregnancy. In this country, more and more women are dying from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth. This is especially true for women of color. Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women in this country are about 3 times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. And black women are at greater risk for preeclampsia than other women.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (also called CDC), up to 60 percent of pregnancy-related deaths can be prevented. When preeclampsia is detected and treated early, serious complications, like pregnancy-related death, may be prevented. We must work together to find solutions to protect our moms and babies.

What can you do?

  • Go to all your prenatal care checkups, even if you’re feeling fine. You may have preeclampsia and not know it.
  • Talk to your provider about treatment with low-dose aspirin. If you’re at risk for preeclampsia, your provider may want you to take low-dose aspirin to help prevent it.
  • Learn the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia.
  • If you have signs or symptoms of preeclampsia, tell your provider right away. This can help save your life.
  • Watch out for signs and symptoms of preeclampsia even after your baby’s born. Although it’s rare, postpartum preeclampsia is dangerous and needs immediate treatment. If not treated, it can cause life-threatening problems, including death.
  • Go to your postpartum checkups to make sure you’re recovering well from labor and birth. Make a postpartum care plan with your provider during pregnancy. Go to your postpartum checkups, even if you’re feeling fine.
  • Share with others the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia. This can help save more lives.

Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia 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 in the shoulder
  • Sudden weight gain (2 to 5 pounds in a week)
  • Swelling in the legs, hands or face
  • Trouble breathing

Many of these signs and symptoms are common discomforts of pregnancy. If you have even one sign or symptom, call your provider right away.

Take action today

March of Dimes fights for the health of all moms and babies. We’re advocating for policies to protect them. You can help us lead this fight. Take action now to support legislation that can protect the women you love and prevent pregnancy-related deaths.