Pre-eclampsia is a condition that you only get when you’re pregnant. Most of the time it's mild but for some women it can be dangerous for them and their baby. For this reason, you'll be closely monitored by your midwife and obstetrician.

It happens in about 1 in 10 pregnancies, and is statistically more likely in your first pregnancy or if you have had more than 10 years between pregnancies.

Women who develop pre-eclampsia in pregnancy have an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke or heart disease in later life. Discuss ways to reduce this risk with your GP.

Symptoms of pre-eclampsia

You might have pre-eclampsia if your:

  • blood pressure goes up in the middle or towards the end of your pregnancy
  • baby isn’t growing well

You might also have:

  • very swollen ankles, fingers, hands or face
  • headaches
  • blurred vision or see flashing lights and changes to your vision
  • severe pain just below your ribs

If you have any of these symptoms or you’re worried you might have pre-eclampsia, talk to your midwife or phone the hospital immediately.


Pre-eclampsia can cause issues with your:

  • liver
  • lungs
  • kidneys
  • brain
  • blood-clotting system

If you have moderate or severe pre-eclampsia you may need to give birth to your baby earlier than normal.


Eclampsia (seizure or fits) is a rare but serious complication of pre-eclampsia.

It can happen if pre-eclampsia isn’t treated or is treated too late.

Further information and other languages and formats

Translations and alternative formats of this information are available from Public Health Scotland.

Simplified Chinese (Mandarin)

Last updated:
25 January 2023