Postpartum preeclampsia is a rare condition that occurs when a woman has high blood pressure and excess protein in her urine soon after childbirth.
Most cases of postpartum preeclampsia develop within 48 hours of childbirth. However, postpartum preeclampsia sometimes develops up to four to six weeks after childbirth. This is known as late postpartum preeclampsia.
Postpartum preeclampsia requires prompt treatment. Left untreated, postpartum preeclampsia can result in seizures and other serious complications.
Preeclampsia is a similar condition that develops during pregnancy and typically resolves with the birth the baby.
Postpartum preeclampsia can be difficult to detect on your own. Many women who experience postpartum preeclampsia show no signs or symptoms during pregnancy. Also, you might not suspect that anything is wrong when you're focused on recovering after childbirth and caring for a newborn.
Signs and symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia — which are typically similar to those of preeclampsia that occurs during pregnancy — might include:
If you have signs or symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia shortly after childbirth, contact your health care provider right away. Depending on the circumstances, you might need immediate medical care.
The causes of postpartum preeclampsia and preeclampsia that occurs during pregnancy aren't well understood. While preeclampsia is typically cured by childbirth, it's believed that postpartum preeclampsia is set into motion during pregnancy but doesn't cause symptoms until after delivery.
Limited research suggests that risk factors for postpartum preeclampsia might include:
Complications of postpartum preeclampsia include:
As with preeclampsia, postpartum preeclampsia might also increase your risk of future cardiovascular disease.
Preparing for your appointment
If you've recently given birth and have any signs or symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia, contact your health care provider right away. Depending on the circumstances, you might need immediate medical care.
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, as well as what to expect from your health care provider.
What you can do
Below are some basic questions to ask your health care provider about postpartum preeclampsia.
In addition to the questions you've prepared, don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment — especially if you need clarification or you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
If you've already been discharged from the hospital after childbirth and your health care provider suspects that you have postpartum preeclampsia, you might need to be readmitted to the hospital. Postpartum preeclampsia is usually diagnosed with lab tests:
Treatments and drugs
Postpartum preeclampsia is treated with medication, including:
If you're breast-feeding, ask your health care provider whether it's safe to continue breast-feeding while taking medication to treat postpartum preeclampsia.
Coping and support
The postpartum period often brings physical discomfort as well as emotional ups and downs. If you're diagnosed with postpartum preeclampsia, you might need to stay in the hospital longer than you planned or be readmitted to the hospital. This can cause additional stress. Lean on loved ones and other close contacts for support. Also, work with your health care provider to determine how you can safely manage your condition and your role as mother of a newborn.
There's no known way to prevent postpartum preeclampsia. The best way to take care of yourself is to know the signs and symptoms of postpartum preeclampsia. Don't be afraid to contact your health care provider if you have questions or concerns about your health as you recover from childbirth.
Last Updated: 2012-04-26
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