Who is at risk of preeclampsia?

Although preeclampsia occurs primarily in first pregnancies, a woman who had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy is seven times more likely to develop preeclampsia in a later pregnancy.5

Other factors that can increase a woman's risk include:5

  • Chronic high blood pressure or kidney disease before pregnancy
  • High blood pressure or preeclampsia in an earlier pregnancy
  • Obesity. Women with overweight or obesity are also more likely to have preeclampsia in more than one pregnancy.6
  • Age. Women older than 40 are at higher risk.
  • Multiple gestation (being pregnant with more than one fetus)
  • African American ethnicity. Also, among women who have had preeclampsia before, non-white women are more likely than white women to develop preeclampsia again in a later pregnancy.6
  • Family history of preeclampsia.7, 17

Preeclampsia is also more common among women who have histories of certain health conditions, such as migraines,8 diabetes,9 rheumatoid arthritis,10 lupus,11 scleroderma,12 urinary tract infections,13 gum disease,14 polycystic ovary syndrome,15 multiple sclerosis, gestational diabetes, and sickle cell disease.16

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

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends that women who are at high risk for preeclampsia take low-dose aspirin starting after 12 weeks of pregnancy to prevent preeclampsia.17 Women who are pregnant or who are thinking about getting pregnant should talk with their health care provider about preeclampsia risk and ways to reduce the risk.


  1. Duley, L. (2009). The global impact of pre-eclampsia and eclampsia. Seminars in Perinatology, 33(3), 130–137. Retrieved June 23, 2016, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0146000509000214 external link
  2. Ananth, C. V., Keyes, K. M., & Wapner, R.J. (2013). Pre-eclampsia rates in the United States, 1980-2010: Age-period-cohort analysis. British Medical Journal, 347, f6564. Retrieved June 23, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3898425
  3. 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(9), 699–705. Retrieved January 4, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2627466
  4. Haram, K., Svendsen, E., & Abildgaard, U. (2009). The HELLP syndrome: Clinical issues and management. A review. BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth, 9, 8. Retrieved June 6, 2016 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2654858/
  5. Duckitt, K., & Harrington, D. (2005). Risk factors for pre-eclampsia at antenatal booking: Systematic review of controlled studies. British Medical Journal,330(7491), 565. Retrieved December 30, 2016, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC554027/
  6. Boghossian, N. S., Yeung, E., Mendola, P., Hinkle, S. N., Laughon, S. K., Zhang, C., & Albert, P. S. (2014). Risk factors differ between recurrent and incident preeclampsia: A hospital-based cohort study. Annals of Epidemiology,24(12), 871–877e3. Retrieved December 13, 2016, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4355246
  7. Lim, K.-H., Steinberg, G., & Ramus, R. M. (2016). Preeclampsia. Retrieved June 6, 2016, from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1476919-overview external link
  8. 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(3), 360–364.
  9. 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(9), 1545–1551.
  10. 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.
  11. Clowse, M. E. B. (2007). Lupus activity in pregnancy. Rheumatic Disease Clinics of North America, 33, 237.
  12. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (n.d.). High blood pressure in pregnancy. Retrieved June 6, 2016, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/guidelines/hbp_preg_archive.pdf (PDF 250 KB)
  13. 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(1), 7–22.
  14. Sibai, B. M. (2012). Hypertension. In S. G. Gabbe, J. R. Niebyl, J. L. Simpson, M. B. Landon, H. L. Galan, E. R. M. Jauniaux, & D. A. Driscoll (Eds.), Obstetrics: Normal and problem pregnancies (6th ed., pp. 631–666). Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders.
  15. 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(5), 990–996.
  16. Preeclampsia Foundation. (2013). FAQs. Retrieved June 6, 2016, from https://www.preeclampsia.org/health-information/faqs external link
  17. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. (2015). Low-dose aspirin use for the prevention of morbidity and mortality from preeclampsia: Recommendation statement. American Family Physician, 91(5). Retrieved August 8, 2016, from http://www.aafp.org/afp/2015/0301/od1.html external link
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