Eclampsia: symptoms, late (puerperal) and postpartum

According to the Brazilian Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics Associations, eclampsia is still the biggest cause of maternal death in Brazil, which are those that occur during pregnancy, childbirth or up to 40 days after the baby is born.

Other causes include bleeding during childbirth, nosocomial infections and unsafe abortion.

Do you want to know more about this subject? Then check out the text below:

What is eclampsia?

So much is said about it, but sometimes the medical terms are difficult to understand. After all, what is eclampsia?

Quite simply, eclampsia is the aggravation of pre-eclampsia that is related to increased pressure and excess protein present in the urine during pregnancy.

It is a rare condition, which manifests itself through convulsions and coma.

Fortunately, this disease has treatment and prevention.

However, if the pregnant woman is not treated or attended to in time, it is possible that eclampsia will lead to the death of the baby, the mother or, in more severe cases, both.

Therefore, the importance of always performing prenatal examinations and, in case of doubts, seek guidance from the obstetrician who accompanies the pregnancy.

Although eclampsia can appear from the 20th week of pregnancy, it is more common in the last trimester, during childbirth, or even, in the postpartum period.

What is the difference between eclampsia and pre-eclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a condition characterized by increased pressure and protein levels in the urine during pregnancy. This condition, when aggravated, can lead the pregnant woman to eclampsia, which is characterized by seizures. That is, the first, when it is not treated correctly, tends to lead to the second.

Thus, pregnant women with pre-eclampsia (increased blood pressure) should follow medical guidelines to avoid eclampsia (convulsions and even comatose states).

What is late (postpartum) eclampsia?

Late eclampsia, also known as puerperal eclampsia, is a complication that can happen during childbirth or up to 4 weeks after it (this time of recovery of the female organism is called puerperium, giving rise to one of the names of this condition). This disease is very rare, but it can be fatal for the mother.

Late eclampsia causes seizures, bleeding in the brain, kidney, liver and heart failure and even comatose states, in more severe cases. If the pregnant woman does not have the correct care in these situations, she may even die.

This complication can happen both with women who had a healthy pregnancy and with those diagnosed with pre-eclampsia during pregnancy.

One of the factors that makes the correct diagnosis more difficult is that the symptoms (severe pain in the head and stomach, increased reflexes and visual disturbances) are easily confused with other complications.

When this happens, it is necessary for the woman to do imaging tests, such as tomography, to rule out other suspicions.

What is the normal pressure for a pregnant woman?

The ideal pressure during pregnancy varies according to factors such as the medical history and the current clinical condition of the pregnant woman. Commonly, if the woman is healthy, the reference value for the pregnant woman to be considered with pre-eclampsia is an increase of 3 cm in the maximum pressure and 1.5 cm in the minimum.

In addition, preeclampsia can be considered when the pressure is greater than 140/90 mmHg (14 for 9).

Even with these reference numbers, the ideal is to talk to the obstetrician who is accompanying the pregnancy. This professional is able to estimate the ideal blood pressure for the patient, based on the patient’s medical history.

What are the causes?

Although this has not yet been well defined by medicine, it is believed that the main cause of eclampsia is the lack of blood supply to the placenta.

When it realizes this complication, the pregnant woman’s body increases the blood pressure of the blood so that it can reach the placenta, causing convulsions (eclampsia).

Some factors can contribute to this:

  • Obesity;
  • Diabetes;
  • Smoking;
  • Pregnancy of twins or more children;
  • Women who already have high blood pressure problems;
  • Women under 18 or over 40;
  • Family history of eclampsia;
  • Renal diseases;
  • Autoimmune diseases.

What are the consequences of eclampsia?

If not treated in time, the pregnant woman diagnosed with eclampsia may have some complications such as brain damage, difficulty breathing due to fluid retention in the lungs and Hellp’s syndrome (characterized by changes in blood circulation, decreased red blood cells and platelets ).

The baby can also be harmed, especially when there is a need to advance delivery. In such cases, he (she) may not have developed correctly, which tends to cause future problems (such as respiratory diseases).

Main symptoms of eclampsia

The main symptoms that arise during eclampsia are:

  • Convulsions;
  • Loss of consciousness;
  • Vaginal bleeding;
  • Headaches;
  • Muscle aches;
  • Cardiac arrhythmia (when the heart beats too slowly or too fast);
  • Coma.

When the pregnant woman has already been warned by the doctor about pre-eclampsia, these signs may indicate that a seizure is approaching.

There are also asymptomatic cases , which happen when the pregnant woman has no symptoms. This is the most dangerous type, as it takes the expectant mother by surprise.

Examinations and prenatal care are the best way to avoid these situations.

Treatment: what to do?

The ideal type of treatment for eclampsia will depend on other factors such as gestational time and the development of the baby.

If the pregnancy is more than 32 weeks old or the baby is at risk of death, emergency cesarean surgery can even be performed .

In pregnancies over 37 weeks and the diagnosis of eclampsia, it is common for the medical team to choose to induce dilations of the vaginal canal so that childbirth can take place as soon as possible.

In milder cases or when pregnancy is not so advanced, it is recommended to use anticonvulsant medications indicated by the obstetrician who accompanies the situation.

It is worth mentioning that most cases of eclampsia require hospitalization, for the health status of the woman and the baby to be properly evaluated.

How to prevent eclampsia?

The most effective way to prevent eclampsia is to do prenatal care.

Through consultations, the obstetrician who accompanies the pregnancy can request tests, measure the pregnant pressure and, in more severe cases, even prescribe medications to lower the pressure without harming the pregnancy.

It is also important that the woman is honest with this professional, presenting her medical history and her current clinical condition.

That is, for the prevention of eclampsia and other complications, you should talk to the obstetrician about your health problems and clarify any doubts.

Some attitudes of the pregnant woman (especially if there is a diagnosis of pre-eclampsia), can also help: rest when possible, reduce the amount of salt in the diet and measure the pressure frequently are some tips.


Eclampsia is a serious complication, but it can happily be treated.

Prenatal examinations are the main form of prevention, so it is important to have an obstetric follow-up as the doctor instructs. The newsroom of Hickey solution brings many other information about pregnancy . Follow our posts !!!

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