If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, ask your doctor or midwife about your risk for preeclampsia, also called toxemia. If you are at high risk, the doctor may recommend that you take a low dose (small amount) of aspirin while you are pregnant to help prevent preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is a health problem that some women develop after about 20 weeks of pregnancy. Preeclampsia is usually mild, but it can be dangerous and even deadly for both a pregnant woman and her unborn baby.
Many women who have preeclampsia don’t feel sick. The main sign of preeclampsia is high blood pressure. It’s important to get regular checkups during pregnancy so your doctor or midwife can check your blood pressure.
Am I at high risk for preeclampsia?
Most pregnant women are not at high risk for preeclampsia.
You are at higher risk for preeclampsia if you:
- Had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy
- Are pregnant with more than one baby
- Have chronic (long-term) high blood pressure
- Have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, or certain autoimmune diseases
You may also be at risk if you:
- Are pregnant for the first time
- Are obese
- Have a family history of preeclampsia
- Are African American
- Are age 35 or older
What do I ask the doctor?
Visiting the doctor can be stressful. It helps to have questions written down before your appointment. Print this list of questions and take it with you the next time you visit your doctor or midwife.
- What are my blood pressure numbers – and are they normal?
- Am I at high risk for developing preeclampsia?
- If I develop preeclampsia, how could it affect me and my baby?
- Do you recommend that I take low-dose aspirin to help prevent preeclampsia?
- What are the risks and benefits (for me and my baby) if I take aspirin to prevent preeclampsia?
- What else can I do to have a healthy pregnancy?
Content last updated October 15, 2020
This information on preeclampsia was adapted from materials from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
Iris R. Mabry-Hernandez, MD, MPH
Medical Officer, U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Program
Center for Evidence and Practice Improvement
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality