May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month

Baby Feet

Preeclampsia is marked by hypertension, excess swelling and protein in the urine. 5-8% of pregnant people get it and you are more likely if you are African-American or Hispanic.

Globally, preeclampsia accounts for nearly 75,000 maternal deaths and 700,000 neonatal deaths annually (Langston-Cox et al., 2021)


Preeclampsia is fancy word for high blood pressure during pregnancy. Many women have normal blood pressure when not pregnant, but develop high blood pressure and protein in the urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Symptoms may include:

  • High blood pressure (greater than 140/90)
  • Swelling of the face and hands (feet swelling is common during pregnancy and does not indicate a problem by itself)
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision

If symptoms of preeclampsia are severe enough, it can cause complications in the pregnancy, lead to seizures, cause damage to the liver and kidneys, and could possibly be life-threatening if left untreated.

More serious symptoms that require immediate medical attention include:

  • Severe headache
  • Temporary blindness
  • Abdominal pain, especially in the upper right abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Decreased urination
  • HELLP syndrome – bleeding or bruising easily due to low platelets, elevated liver enzymes.

Treatment may include bedrest, close monitoring of blood and urine, IV medication, anti-convulsion medication, or induction of labor. If the fetus is not yet 37 weeks and the symptoms are not severe, your doctor may try to manage symptoms long enough for the baby to continue to mature and develop.

Acupuncture and herbal medicine can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan for women with dealing with preeclampsia, in combination with the medical advice and recommendations given by your OBGYN. A small prospective cohort study published in the British Medical Journal compared patients getting acupuncture with patients receiving usual medical care alone. Patients in the acupuncture group received up to 10 treatments in 2 weeks, and had a significant decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure at the time of delivery and postpartum, compared with patients receiving usual medical care. I am hoping that in the future there are larger and more high quality studies are to examine how acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine may benefit women dealing with preeclampsia. I have treated many women in the clinic with high blood pressure during pregnancy, who got great results with regular acupuncture!

Prevention is the best method. And you can’t always do that. Do the best you can.


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