Abdominal pain, high blood pressure, excessive vomiting, rapid weight gain and protein in the urine are some of the signs of preeclampsia, formerly known as toxemia, during pregnancy, notes WebMD. Because preeclampsia can prevent proper blood flow to the placenta, babies may be born prematurely and can suffer from later conditions such as learning disabilities, epilepsy and hearing and vision problems. In rare cases, pregnant women with preeclampsia may suffer from seizures, strokes, heart failure and bleeding from the liver.
Preeclampsia usually occurs during the second half of pregnancy and often causes swelling in the feet, legs and hands, states WebMD. While some women with preeclampsia do not experience symptoms, pregnant women who have symptoms such as sudden swelling in the face, hands or eyes; sudden weight gain; severe headaches; or a decrease in urine should seek medical attention immediately. Women that are pregnant for the first time, pregnant teenagers and women over the age of 40 are most likely to experience preeclampsia.
Doctors are unsure what causes the problems with the placenta that result in preeclampsia, but they suspect that genetics, poor nutrition, high body fat and insufficient blood flow to the uterus are contributors, notes WebMD. Women with a history of conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease, those who have mothers or sisters who had the condition, and women with a history of high blood pressure or obesity are at higher risk of developing preeclampsia.