Eclampsia is seizures that occur in pregnant people with preeclampsia. Symptoms of eclampsia are high blood pressure, headaches, blurry vision and convulsions. Eclampsia is a rare but serious condition that occurs in the second half of pregnancy.


Warning signs of eclampsia
Most people experience warning signs of eclampsia before having a seizure.

What is eclampsia?

Eclampsia is a rare but serious complication of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a disorder of pregnancy in which a person who’s pregnant has high blood pressure and protein in their urine. Eclampsia is when a person with preeclampsia develops seizures (convulsions) during pregnancy. Seizures are episodes of shaking, confusion and disorientation caused by abnormal brain activity.

Eclampsia typically occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy. It’s rare and affects less than 3% of people with preeclampsia. Eclampsia can cause complications during pregnancy and requires emergency medical care.

What is the difference between preeclampsia and eclampsia?

Eclampsia is a severe form of preeclampsia that causes seizures. It’s considered a complication of preeclampsia, but it can happen without signs of preeclampsia. These seizures can cause confusion and disorientation or put the pregnant person in a coma. In some cases, it can lead to stroke or death. In most cases, preeclampsia is managed before it progresses to eclampsia. Your obstetrician will monitor you closely throughout your pregnancy and they may prescribe medications. With both conditions, the only cure is to deliver your baby.


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What are risk factors for eclampsia?

The biggest risk factor for eclampsia is preeclampsia. Most people with preeclampsia don’t develop eclampsia. You may also be at higher risk for eclampsia if:

However, you may not have any risk factors.

Symptoms and Causes

What are the warning signs of eclampsia?

Many people will have warning signs before having a seizure caused by eclampsia. Some of these signs are:


What are the symptoms of eclampsia?

The most common symptoms of eclampsia are:

  • Seizures.
  • Severe distress or confusion.
  • Losing consciousness.

What causes eclampsia?

Eclampsia typically develops from preeclampsia. High blood pressure (from preeclampsia) puts pressure on your blood vessels. There can be swelling in your brain, which may lead to seizures.

Genetics and diet can increase your risk for eclampsia.


Diagnosis and Tests

How is eclampsia diagnosed?

Your obstetrician diagnoses eclampsia based on the presence of a seizure. They will perform an exam, blood work and regular blood pressure monitoring. They also order urine tests to look for increased protein in the urine.

  • Blood tests: Blood tests may show abnormal factors like red blood cell count or platelet count.
  • Urine tests: Urine tests typically show large amounts of protein in your urine.
  • Creatinine tests: Creatinine is a waste product that’s typically filtered out of your blood by your kidneys. Abnormally high levels of creatinine could be a sign of kidney failure.

Your healthcare provider will monitor the fetus and check its heart rate, movement, size and other factors through ultrasound to ensure it’s tolerating pregnancy well.

Management and Treatment

How is eclampsia treated?

The best treatment for eclampsia is giving birth. If the fetus is 37 weeks gestation or more, inducing labor is usually the best choice. You may still have a vaginal delivery if you and the fetus are stable.

Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications for eclampsia during pregnancy like:

  • Anticonvulsant medication or magnesium sulfate infusion to prevent seizures.
  • Blood pressure medication to lower blood pressure.
  • Corticosteroids to help develop and strengthen the fetus’s lungs.

What are complications from eclampsia?

People with eclampsia are at higher risk for:

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How can I reduce my risk of developing eclampsia?

Getting treatment for preeclampsia can reduce your risk of developing eclampsia. Getting prompt medical care, attending all your prenatal appointments and following a healthy lifestyle can also help reduce your risk. Certain conditions (some beyond your control) can put you at higher risk for preeclampsia and eclampsia. Starting low-dose aspirin in the first trimester might decrease your risk of getting preeclampsia if you’re at increased risk.

Outlook / Prognosis

Can you recover from eclampsia?

Yes, most people recover from eclampsia after delivery. There are some things you can do to help your recovery:

  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Stay as active as possible.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Attend all of your prenatal appointments.
  • Try to keep your stress levels low.
  • Take all of your medications as directed.
  • Watch your blood pressure closely for at least two weeks after birth.

Is eclampsia always fatal?

No, it doesn’t always lead to death. With prompt treatment, most people will recover.

How does eclampsia affect my baby?

Eclampsia shouldn’t cause any long-term health problems, but it can affect the fetus. Preeclampsia or eclampsia can affect the placenta and how it functions. Your placenta delivers oxygen, blood and nutrients to the fetus. Other potential side effects are:

  • Placental abruption.
  • Stillbirth.
  • Increased risk of C-section.
  • Early labor or premature birth.
  • Low birth weight.

Living With

When should I see my healthcare provider?

Go to the emergency room if you have a new seizure during pregnancy. Other symptoms that require medical attention during pregnancy are:

  • Severe headaches.
  • Vaginal bleeding.
  • Vision loss or seeing double.
  • Severe abdominal pain.
  • Vomiting.
  • You feel the fetus move less or not at all.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Eclampsia is rare but can be quite serious during pregnancy. Getting prompt medical treatment for preeclampsia may prevent you from getting eclampsia. Attending your prenatal appointments for regular blood pressure checks and blood and urine tests can help detect symptoms that lead to eclampsia. Let your obstetrician know if you experience signs of eclampsia like disorientation, headaches, blurred vision or convulsions.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 10/25/2022.

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