Eclampsia is seizures (convulsions) in a pregnant woman that are not related to a preexisting brain condition.
See also: Preeclampsia
The cause of eclampsia is not well understood. The following may play a role:
Eclampsia follows preeclampsia, a serious complication of pregnancy that includes high blood pressure and excess and rapid weight gain.
It is difficult to predict which women with preeclampsia will go on to have seizures. Women at high risk for seizures have severe preeclampsia and:
Eclampsia occurs in about 1 out of every 2,000 to 3,000 pregnancies. The following increase a woman's chance for getting preeclampsia:
Symptoms of eclampsia include:
Symptoms of preeclampsia include:
The health care provider will do a physical exam to check for possible causes of seizures. Blood pressure and breathing rate will be checked and monitored.
Blood and urine tests may be done to check:
If you have preeclampsia, your health care provider should carefully monitor you for signs of worsening and potential eclampsia.
Delivery is the main treatment for severe preeclampsia to prevent eclampsia. Prolonging the pregnancy can be dangerous to both you and the baby.
With careful monitoring, the goal is to manage severe preeclampsia until 32 - 34 weeks into the pregnancy, and mild preeclampsia until 36 - 37 weeks have passed. This helps reduce complications from premature delivery.
You may be given medicine to prevent seizures. Such medicines are called anticonvulsants. Magnesium sulfate is a safe drug for both you and your baby.
Your doctor may prescribe medication to lower high blood pressure. If your blood pressure remains high, delivery may be needed.
Women with eclampsia or preeclampsia have a higher risk for:
Call your health care provider or go to the emergency room if you have any symptoms of eclampsia or preeclampsia. Emergency symptoms include seizures or decreased alertness.
You need urgent care if you have bright red vaginal bleeding, little or no movement in the baby, severe headache, severe right upper abdominal pain, vision loss, nausea or vomiting.
It is important for all pregnant women to get early and ongoing medical care. This allows for the early diagnosis and treatment of conditions such as preeclampsia. Treating preeclampsia may prevent eclampsia.
Toxemia with seizures
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Stead LG. Seizures in pregnancy/eclampsia. Emerg Med Clin N Am. 2011;29:109-116
Houry DE, Salhi BA. Acute complications of pregnancy. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 176.
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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