In the majority of cases, the occurrence of pre-eclampsia or eclampsia is unpredictable and the cause is unknown. However, there are some risk factors which are known to be associated with hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (Box 19.1).

Box 19.1 Common risk factors for hypertensive disorders in pregnant women

  • First time pregnancy before the age of 20 years or after 35 years
  • Multiple pregnancy (twins or more)
  • Family history of pre-eclampsia/eclampsia in close female relatives
  • History of pre-eclampsia/eclampsia in the previous pregnancy
  • Diabetes currently
  • Obesity currently (woman is very overweight for her height)
  • Kidney disease currently.

Knowing these risk factors will help you to:

  • Anticipate the possibility of a hypertensive disorder and its complications developing before they actually happen.
  • Offer counselling to the woman and her partner and family about the danger symptoms of severe pre-eclampsia/eclampsia, so they can take action quickly if needed.
  • Make antenatal care visits more frequently in late pregnancy to women with known risk factors.

Equally important, you need to know that any woman (regardless of age and number of previous deliveries) can develop a hypertensive disorder in any pregnancy. Therefore, although it is good to anticipate its occurrence in those who have one of the risk factors, you should assume that all pregnant women have the potential to develop hypertension.

Last modified: Monday, 14 July 2014, 2:16 PM