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How many women are affected by or at risk of preeclampsia?

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The exact number of women who develop preeclampsia is not known. Some scientists and health care providers estimate that preeclampsia affects 5% to 10% of all pregnancies globally. The rates are lower in the United States (about 3% to 5% of women), but it is estimated to account for 40% to 60% of maternal deaths in developing countries.1 Disorders related to high blood pressure are the second leading cause of stillbirths and early neonatal deaths in developing nations.2

In addition, HELLP syndrome occurs in about 10% to 20% of all women with severe preeclampsia or eclampsia.3

Risk Factors for Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia occurs primarily in first pregnancies. Other factors that can increase a woman's risk include4:

  • Chronic high blood pressure or kidney disease before pregnancy
  • High blood pressure or preeclampsia in an earlier pregnancy
  • Obesity
  • Women who are younger than age 20 or older than 35
  • Women who are pregnant with more than one fetus
  • Being African American
  • Having a family history of preeclampsia

According to the World Health Organization, among women who have had preeclampsia, about 20% to 40% of their daughters and 11% to 37% of their sisters also will get the disorder.5

Preeclampsia is more common among women who have histories of certain health conditions, such as migraine headaches6, diabetes7 , rheumatoid arthritis8, lupus9, scleroderma10, urinary tract infection11, gum disease12, polycystic ovary syndrome13, multiple sclerosis, gestational diabetes, and sickle cell disease.14

Preeclampsia is also more common in pregnancies resulting from egg donation, donor insemination, or in vitro fertilization.

  1. Omole-Ohonsi, A., & Ashimi, A. O. (2008). Pre-eclampsia—A study of risk factors. Nigerian Medical Practitioner, 53, 99–102. Retrieved July 10, 2012, from External Web Site Policy [top]
  2. Ngoc, N. T., Merialdi, M., Abdel-Aleem, H., Carroli, G., Purwar, M., Zavaleta, N., et al. (2006). Causes of stillbirths and early neonatal deaths: Data from 7993 pregnancies in six developing countries. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 84, 699–705. [In Lim, K. H. (2011). Preeclampsia. Retrieved May 21, 2012, from External Web Site Policy [top]
  3. PubMed Health. (2011). HELLP syndrome. Retrieved May 21, 2012, from [top]
  4. Zamorski, M. A., & Green, L. A. (2001). NHBPEP report on high blood pressure in pregnancy: A summary for family physicians. American Family Physician, 64, 263–271. [top]
  5. Lim, K.-H., & Ramus, R. M. (2011). Preeclampsia. Retrieved July 31, 2012, from External Web Site Policy [top]
  6. Sanchez, S. E., Qiu, C., Williams, M. A., Lam, N., Sorensen, T. K. (2008). Headaches and migraines are associated with an increased risk of preeclampsia in Peruvian women. American Journal of Hypertension, 21, 360–364. [top]
  7. Rosenberg, T. J., Garbers, S., Lipkind, H., Chiasson, M. A. (2005). Maternal obesity and diabetes as risk factors for adverse pregnancy outcomes: differences among 4 racial/ethnic groups. American Journal of Public Health 95, 1545–1551. [top]
  8. Lin, H. C., Chen, S. F., Lin, H. C., Chen, Y. H. (2010). Increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes in women with rheumatoid arthritis: a nationwide population-based study. Annals of the Rheumatic Disease 69, 715–717. [top]
  9. Clowse, M. E. B. (2007). Lupus activity in pregnancy. Rheumatic Disease Clinics of North America, 33, 237. [top]
  10. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2012, August 10). High blood pressure in pregnancy. Retrieved August 10, 2012, from [top]
  11. Conde-Agudelo, A., Villar, J., Lindheimer, M. (2008). Maternal infection and risk of preeclampsia: systematic review and metaanalysis. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 198: 7–22. [top]
  12. Sibai, B. M. (2012). Hypertension. In S. G. Gabbe, J. R. Niebyl, J. L. Simpson, & M. B. Landon (Eds.), Obstetrics: Normal and problem pregnancies (6th ed.). Philadelphia: Saunders. [top]
  13. Veltman-Verhulst, S. M., van Rijn, B. B., Westerveld, H. E., Franx, A., Bruinse, H. W., Fauser, B. C., et al. (2010). Polycystic ovary syndrome and early-onset preeclampsia: reproductive manifestations of increased cardiovascular risk. Menopause, 17, 990–996. [top]
  14. Preeclampsia Foundation. (2012). FAQs. Retrieved July 10, 2012, from External Web Site Policy [top]

Last Reviewed: 06/18/2013
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