Eclampsia is a life-threatening condition that can occur during pregnancy or in the early period after the birth. It could be considered as a complication of other condition that is known as preeclampsia.


Eclampsia is usually preceded by the so-called preeclampsia. The exact causes are unclear. We assume that the condition is related to a failure of the placenta. This failure leads to formation of many substances that damage the blood vessels in several organs. Blood vessel damage can lead to ischemia and reduced permeability of blood vessel walls may cause blood leakage into surrounding tissues. The body is especially sensitive to decreased blood flow to brain and signs of its disorders are referred to as eclampsia.


Disorders of the cerebral blood flow manifest as recurring headache and dizziness that may be accompanied with nausea and vomiting. The major symptoms of eclampsia are muscle spasms that can gradually progress to a state resembling a severe epileptic seizure. These seizures may recur and they may be fatal without proper treatment.


The treatment must be rapid and comprehensive. The cooperation of a gynecologist and intensive care physicians is necessary. A pregnant woman suffering from eclampsia should be hospitalized in an inpatient department, monitored and treated with antispasmodic drugs. Oxygen intake must be ensured, in severe cases with unconsciousness, tracheal intubation is needed. As the condition is usually accompanied with elevated blood pressure, antihypertensive drugs may be administered. The only truly effective method is, however, only an immediate termination of pregnancy no matter the viability of the fetus. It is a lifesaving procedure for the mother.

Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources