What are the risks of preeclampsia & eclampsia to the fetus?

Preeclampsia may be related to problems with the placenta early in the pregnancy.1 Such problems pose risks to the fetus, including:

  • Lack of oxygen and nutrients, which can impair fetal growth
  • Preterm birth
  • Stillbirth if placental abruption (separation of the placenta from the uterine wall) leads to heavy bleeding in the mother
  • Infant death (Visit the Preeclampsia Foundation for current figures) external link

Stillbirths are more likely to occur when the mother has a more severe form of preeclampsia, including HELLP syndrome.

Infants whose mothers had preeclampsia are also at increased risk for later problems, even if they were born at full term (39 weeks of pregnancy).3 Infants born preterm due to preeclampsia face a higher risk of some long-term health issues, mostly related to being born early, including learning disorders, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, deafness, and blindness. Infants born preterm may also have to be hospitalized for a long time after birth and may be smaller than infants born full term. Infants who experienced poor growth in the uterus may later be at higher risk of diabetes, congestive heart failure, and high blood pressure.4


  1. Kaufmann, P., Black, S., & Huppertz, B. (2003). Endovascular trophoblast invasion: Implications for the pathogenesis of intrauterine growth retardation and preeclampsia. Biology of Reproduction,69(1), 1–7. Retrieved January 4, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12620937
  2. Preeclampsia Foundation. (2013). FAQs. Retrieved June 7, 2016, from https://www.preeclampsia.org/health-information/faqs external link
  3. Mendola, P., Mumford, S. L., Männistö, T. I., Holston, A., Reddy, U. M., & Laughon, S. K. (2015). Controlled direct effects of preeclampsia on neonatal health after accounting for mediation by preterm birth. Epidemiology, 26(1), 17–26. Retrieved January 4, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25437315
  4. Cosmi, E., Fanelli, T., Visentin, S., Trevisanuto, D., & Zanardo, V. (2011). Consequences in infants that were intrauterine growth restricted. Journal of Pregnancy. Retrieved June 7, 2016, from http://www.hindawi.com/journals/jp/2011/364381/cta external link
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