Sensors attached to a pregnant patient’s abdomen in a medical exam room.

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
  • Death: According to the Preeclampsia Foundation External Web Site Policy, each year, about 10,500 infants in the United States and about half a million worldwide die due to preeclampsia.2 

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 [top]
  2. Preeclampsia Foundation. (2013). FAQs. Retrieved June 7, 2016, from External Web Site Policy [top]
  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 [top]
  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 External Web Site Policy [top]

What causes preeclampsia and eclampsia?

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

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

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

What are the symptoms of preeclampsia, eclampsia, & HELLP syndrome?

How do health care providers diagnose preeclampsia, eclampsia, and HELLP syndrome?

What are the treatments for preeclampsia, eclampsia, & HELLP syndrome?

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