What is pre-eclampsia, what causes it in pregnancy, and how is it treated? 4 years ago

What is pre-eclampsia, what causes it in pregnancy, and how is it treated?

Earlier this week, Beyonce opened up about the traumatic birth of her twins Rumi and Sir Carter.

The singer told Vogue this week that she was suffering from toxemia in the lead up to the birth, which caused her body to become swollen, and meant that her and her babies' health were in danger.

She said:

"I was 218 pounds (15.5 st) the day I gave birth to Rumi and Sir.

"I was swollen from toxemia and had been on bed rest for over a month. My health and my babies’ health were in danger, so I had an emergency C-section."

Beyonce went on to say that the C-section "changed" her and that she automatically went into "survival mode" when it was happening.

"Today I have a connection to any parent who has been through such an experience," she said.

"After the C-section, my core felt different. It had been major surgery. Some of your organs are shifted temporarily, and in rare cases, removed temporarily during delivery.

"I am not sure everyone understands that. I needed time to heal, to recover."

So, what is toxemia or pre-eclampsia? 

Toxemia, or as it is more commonly known in Ireland, pre-eclampsia is a condition that pregnant women can develop, usually in the second half of their pregnancy.


The condition affects the placenta, meaning that the mother is more likely to experience high blood pressure, fluid retention, and protein in her urine.

It can also lead to growth problems in the unborn baby.

In some cases, a mother with pre-eclampsia is simply monitored throughout the pregnancy to ensure that the condition does not negatively affect her or her baby's health.

However, in other cases, the patient must be treated in hospital, sometimes having an induced labour to relieve the symptoms of the condition.

How common is it? 

Pre-eclampsia is thought to occur in about 10 percent of first-time pregnancies, but this kind of the condition is seen as mild and can often be monitored through blood tests.

Severe cases of the condition affect about 1-2 percent of pregnancies and are likely to occur in subsequent pregnancies too.

According to the HSE, about six women die every year in the UK due to pre-eclampsia complications - as do hundreds of babies due to premature birth.


How is it treated? 

The only treatment proficient in stopping pre-eclampsia entirely is premature birth to remove the placenta.

In mild cases, the mother's blood pressure will be checked for any increase (hypertension), and her urine will be tested for protein (proteinuria). This will take place during regular antenatal check ups.

In more severe cases, the mother's health will still be monitored but it may also be necessary for her to be admitted to hospital until after the baby is born.

During this time, very frequent tests will be carried out on her blood pressure, fluid retention, the baby's heart, and the baby's growth.

The condition usually disappears in the mother after the baby is born. In cases of pre-eclampsia, premature birth is generally carried out via C section.

What happens after? 

Post-birth, the symptoms of pre-eclampsia tend to disappear.

Similarly, the baby should not be affected by the condition unless their growth was severely stunted in the womb, they were deprived of oxygen, or delivered very prematurely.

In this case, they might have to spend a bit more time in hospital to develop before they can go home.

More details about treatment and symptoms of pre-eclampsia can be found here.