The convulsion in eclampsia is similar to the seizure in people with epilepsy. Like an epileptic fit, it has four phases:

The quiet stage

The typical feature of the first stage is a period of quiet (it may not take more than 20 seconds) when the person has generalised weak muscles, stiffness and twitch, and staring eyes.

The tonic stage

This may last up to 30 seconds and is characterised by a severe form of generalised muscle spasms, where the muscles of the legs and hands contract very severely and may seem as strong as a dry stick. During the tonic stage, the woman stops breathing and becomes short of oxygen. There is also rolling of the eyes where you can see the upper part of the sclera (the white part of the eye).

The clonic stage

The third stage may take up to 2 minutes and is classically a jerky movement of the whole body as a result of vigorous muscle contraction and relaxation. At this stage, the woman can breathe and she will also salivate and urinate spontaneously.