Preeclampsia resident survival guide

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Preeclampsia Resident Survival Guide Microchapters

Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Rinky Agnes Botleroo, M.B.B.S.

Synonyms and keywords: Approach to preeclampsia , Approach to gestational hypertension with proteinuria


Preeclampsia is primarily defined as gestational hypertension with proteinuria 300 mg or more over a 24-hour period. The pathophysiologic abnormalities of preeclampsia include placental ischemia, generalized vasospasm, abnormal hemostasis with activation of the coagulation system, vascular endothelial dysfunction, abnormal nitric oxide and lipid metabolism, leukocyte activation and changes in various cytokines as well as in insulin resistance. It is important to identify those with high risk of developing preeclampsia during their pregnancy for better management. Maternal and fetal outcomes in preeclampsia depend on one or more of these factors: gestational age at onset of preeclampsia as well as at time of delivery, the severity of the disease process, the presence of multifetal gestation, and the presence of other preexisting medical conditions such as diabetes, renal disease, or thrombophilias. It is associated with an increased risk of placental abruption, preterm birth, fetal intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), acute renal failure, cerebrovascular and cardiovascular complications, disseminated intravascular coagulation, and maternal death. Therefore, it is necessary to diagnose preeclampsia early.


The high risk factors of preeclampsia are:

Women are at moderate risk if they are:

Additional clinical factors associated with preeclampsia are :

Common Causes

Common causes of preeclampsia include uteroplacental ischemia and genetic predisposition due to the following:[11][12]


Shown below is an algorithm summarizing the diagnosis of Pre-eclampsia.
Abbreviations: BP: Blood pressure, RR=Respiratory rate, HR=Heart Rate, OCP= Oral Contraceptive Pill, P :Cr= Protein:Creatinine, sFlt-1= Soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase 1 , PlGF= placental growth factor, A:Cr= Albumin to Creatinine

Pregnant woman comes with Hypertension
Take complete history
Take obstetric history :

❑ Date of last menstrual period?

❑ Estimated date of delivery.

❑ Confirm the gestational age, gravidity and parity.

❑ Check if this is a single or multiple gestation.

Ask about previous obstetric history if she was previously pregnant :

❑ Ask about previous pregnancies including miscarriages and terminations.

❑ Length of gestation.

❑ Ask about mode of delivery.

❑ Ask if there was similar complaints during previous pregnancy?

❑ Was there any complications throughout the pregnancy or during delivery such as shoulder dystocia, postpartum haemorrhage ?

Ask the following questions about menstrual history :

❑ Age of menarche

❑ Last menstrual period

❑ Is the menstrual flow normal? How many pads she has to use in a day?

❑ Is there any foul smell or colour change?

❑ How many days does the menstruation stay?

Contraceptive history for example oral contraceptives, intrauterine device

See if following factors are present:

❑ History of hypertension

Kidney disease


Hypertension with a previous pregnancy

❑ Mother's age younger than 20 or older than 40

❑ Multiple fetuses (twins, triplets)

❑ African-American race

Do the following laboratory tests [1]:

Dipstick testing

❑ If dipstick test is positive (one protein or more), the use of either spot urine albumin to creatinine (A:Cr) or protein to creatinine (P:Cr) ratios are recommended to quantify proteinuria.[2]


Platelet count

❑ Serum creatinine

Liver enzymes

❑ Serum uric acid

❑ Use of PlGF or sFlt-1:PlGF ratio to help rule out preeclampsia in women between 20 and 34 + 6 weeks of gestation in whom preeclampsia is suspected.[13]

Ultrasound assessment of fetal growth and umbilical artery doppler velocimetry or cerebroplacental ratio measurements to assess blood flow redistribution in placental insufficiency.
PRE-ECLAMPSIA: Preeclampsia is defined as Gestational Hypertension associated with new-onset maternal or uteroplacental dysfunction at or after 20 Weeks of Gestation

Gestational Hypertension : Blood pressure higher than 140/90 measured on two separate occasions, more than 6 hours apart.[14]

Accompanied by at ≥1 of the following new-onset conditions[15]:

Proteinuria: Automated dipstick urinalysis should be done. If not available, visual analysis can be used. If dipstick is positive (≥1+), confirmation is done with spot urine.
Abnormal if Protein:Creatinine ≥ 30 mg/mmol or Albumin:Creatinine ≥ 8 mg/mmol.[16][17]

Renal complication: Acute Kidney Injury (creatinine ≥ 90 umol/L).

Liver complications: Elevated transaminases, may be associated with right upper quadrant of epigastric abdominal pain.

Neurological complications: Eclampsia, altered mental status, blindness, stroke, clonus, severe and persistent visual scotomata.

Haematological complications: Thrombocytopenia (platelet count < 150000/µL, disseminated intravascular coagulation, hemolysis).

Uteroplacental dysfunction: Fetal growth restriction, abnormal umbilical artery doppler wave form analysis, stillbirth.



Shown below is an algorithm summarizing the treatment of mild hypertension and preeclampsia.[18]

Abbreviations: IV: Intravenous, IM= Intramuscular, IUGR= intrauterine growth restriction

Woman with mild hypertension and preeclampsia[19]
Characterized by the following:

❑ Blood pressure of 140/90 or above

❑ Swelling, particularly of the arms, hands, or face that is reflected in greater than expected weight gain, which is a result of retaining fluid. (Swelling in the ankle area is considered normal during pregnancy.)

Protein in the urine. Although uncommon, a woman can have preeclampsia without protein in the urine.

Evaluate maternal and fetal condition

❑ ≥40 weeks of gestation.

❑ ≥ 37 weeks of gestation, Bishop score ≥ 6, non-complaint patient.

❑ ≥34 weeks gestation, labor or rupture of membranes, abnormal fetal testing, intrauterine growth restriction.

<37 weeks
37-39 weeks
❑ Fetal and maternal monitoring on a regular basis.
❑ Inpatient and outpatient management.
❑ Worsening fetal and maternal condition.
❑ ≥40 weeks of gestation
❑ Bishop score ≥ 6 at ≥ 37 weeks of gestation.

Shown below is an algorithm summarizing the treatment of severe preeclampsia.[18][19]

Woman with severe pre eclampsia[19]

Characterized by:

❑ Blood pressure of 160/110 mmHg or higher in more than one reading separated by at least six hours.

❑ Proteinuria


Blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher.

❑ Symptoms or signs of ongoing damage to internal organs, such as: Severe headache, changes in vision, reduced urine output, abdominal pain, fluid in the lungs and pelvic pain.

❑ Signs of the "HELLP" syndrome, which means the liver and blood-clotting systems are not functioning properly. HELLP stands for Hemolysis (damaged red blood cells), Elevated Liver enzymes (indicating ongoing liver cell damage) and Low Platelets that help the blood to clot. It occurs in about 10% of patients with severe preeclampsia.

❑ Admit to the labor and delivery unit.

❑ Evaluate maternal and fetal condition for 24 hours.

❑ Administer Magnesium sulphate X 24 hours.

❑ Anti-hypertensives if systolic blood pressure ≥ 160mm Hg, diastolic blood pressure ≥110 mmHg and meant aretrial blood pressure ≥125 mmHg.

Check if following are present:


Maternal distress

❑ Non-reassuring fetal status.

Labor or rupture of membranes.

❑ >34 weeks of gestation.


Magnesium Sulphate

❑ Delivery.

Severe intrauterine growth restriction
33-34 weeks of gestation
23-32 weeks of gestation
<23 weeks of gestation

❑ Steroids at 24-32 weeks

Anti-hypertensives if required.

❑ Daily maternal and fetal evaluation.

Delivery at 34 weeks.

termination of pregnancy
Drugs for urgent controlling of hypertension in preeclampsia[20] Dose Specific considration Onset of action
Labetalol ❑ 10–20 mg IV

❑ Then 20–80 mg every 10–30 minutes upto a maximum dosage of 300 mg;or infusion 1–2 mg/min IV

Contraindications: 1-2 minutes
Hydralazine ❑ 5 mg IV or IM

❑ Then 5–10 mg IV every 20–40 minutes upto a maximum dosage of 200 mg or keeping infusion of 0.5–10 mg/hr.
Side effects in higher dosage: 10-20 minutes
Nifedipine ❑ 10–20 mg orally, repeat in 20 minutes if needed .

❑ Then 10–20 mg every 2–6 hours, maximum daily dose is 180 mg.
Side effect: 5-10 minutes


  • Patient should start low-dose aspirin if she has two or more moderate risk factors.
  • If a woman had preeclampsia during a previous pregnancy, the patient should maintain a healthy weight and make sure other conditions such as diabetes, are well managed before getting pregnant.
  • Once a woman is pregnant with history of previous preeclampsia, the patient should complete early and regular prenatal care visits.
  • If a pregnant woman has swelling, severe headache, changes in vision or other symptoms of preeclampsia, she should contact the doctor immediately.
  • It is important to start leading a healthy lifestyle which includes maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, eating a well-balanced diet, not smoking or not using alcohol.


  • It's important that a pregnant woman does not take any medications, vitamins or supplements without first talking to her doctor.


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  2. 2.0 2.1 "Overview | Hypertension in pregnancy: diagnosis and management | Guidance | NICE".
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  8. Bellos I, Daskalakis G, Pergialiotis V (February 2018). "Helicobacter pylori infection increases the risk of developing preeclampsia: A meta-analysis of observational studies". Int J Clin Pract. 72 (2). doi:10.1111/ijcp.13064. PMID 29388723.
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  15. Fox R, Kitt J, Leeson P, Aye C, Lewandowski AJ (October 2019). "Preeclampsia: Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Management, and the Cardiovascular Impact on the Offspring". J Clin Med. 8 (10). doi:10.3390/jcm8101625. PMC 6832549 Check |pmc= value (help). PMID 31590294. Vancouver style error: initials (help)
  16. Price CP, Newall RG, Boyd JC (September 2005). "Use of protein:creatinine ratio measurements on random urine samples for prediction of significant proteinuria: a systematic review". Clin Chem. 51 (9): 1577–86. doi:10.1373/clinchem.2005.049742. PMID 16020501.
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  18. 18.0 18.1 "" (PDF).
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 "Preeclampsia And Eclampsia - Harvard Health".
  20. "Gestational Hypertension and Preeclampsia". Obstetrics & Gynecology. 135 (6): e237–e260. 2020. doi:10.1097/AOG.0000000000003891. ISSN 0029-7844.

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