Who is affected by preeclampsia and high blood pressure during pregnancy

High blood pressure develops in about 10% of all pregnancies in the United States.1

Preeclampsia occurs in about 5% of all pregnancies.2 In some populations and environments, higher rates have been reported. Preeclampsia most often affects women who:

  • Are pregnant for the first time or have not been pregnant for 10 or more years.3
  • Have a family history of preeclampsia.
  • Are younger than 21 or older than 35.
  • Are more than 20% over their ideal body weight. If your weight is within this range, the higher your prepregnancy body mass index, the greater your preeclampsia risk.4
  • Do not see their doctors for prenatal checkups regularly.

Less than 1% of women with preeclampsia develop seizures (eclampsia).5


  1. Duley L (2005). Pre-eclampsia and hypertension, search date November 2004. Online version of Clinical Evidence (14): 1776–1790.
  2. Cunningham FG, et al. (2005). Hypertensive disorders in pregnancy. In Williams Obstetrics, 22nd ed., pp. 761–808. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  3. Skjaerven R, et al. (2002). The interval between pregnancies and the risk of preeclampsia. New England Journal of Medicine, 346(1): 33–38.
  4. O'Brien TE, et al. (2003). Maternal body mass index and the risk of preeclampsia: A systematic overview. Epidemiology, 14(3): 368–374.
  5. Habli M, Sibai BM (2008). Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. In RS Gibbs et al., eds., Danforth's Obstetrics and Gynecology, 10th ed., pp. 257–275. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Last Updated: November 14, 2008

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