Preeclampsia - self-care

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Alternate Names

Toxemia - self-care; PIH - self-care; Pregnancy-induced hypertension - self-care


Preeclampsia is high blood pressure and protein in the urine after the 20th week of pregnancy.

What to Expect

If you are past 37 weeks, and your blood pressure is moderately elevated, your health care provider will likely advise you to deliver early. This may involve getting medicines to start (induce) labor or having a cesarean-section (C-section). 

If you are fewer than 37 weeks pregnant, the goal is to prolong your pregnancy as long as it is safe. Doing so allows your baby to develop longer inside of you.

  • If your preeclampsia is severe, you may need to stay in the hospital to be monitored closely.
  • If your preeclampsia is mild, you may be able to stay at home on bed rest. You will need to have frequent checkups and tests.

Bed Rest and Self-care at Home

When you are at home, your doctor will likely ask you to be on bed rest.

  • The best position for bed rest is on your left side. Rest on your right side if your left side gets sore.
  • Lying on your side allows more blood to flow to the placenta, and this brings more blood to your baby.
  • It helps to rest with your knees or hips bent. You may want to use a pillow between your knees to relieve stress on your back.

Most of the time, you will need to remain lying on your side except when you use the bathroom. Ask your health care provider if you can sit up or move around other times.

Your health care provider will tell you how much fluid to drink every day and what other changes you may need to make in your diet. You may need to limit your salt intake.

You may need to take medicines to lower your blood pressure.

  • Take these medicines the way your health care provider tells you to.
  • Do not take any extra vitamins, calcium, aspirin, or other medicines without talking with your health care provider first.

Often, women who have preeclampsia do not feel sick or have any symptoms. Still, both you and your baby may be in danger. You need to stay on bed rest to keep you and your baby as healthy as possible. You may be uncomfortable and feel stressed, but bed rest will get easier to cope with as you get used to it.

Monitoring You and Your Baby

While you are home, your health care provider may ask you to:

  • Measure your blood pressure
  • Monitor how much fluid you drink
  • Check your weight
  • Monitor how often your baby moves and kicks 

Your health care provider will teach you how to do these things.

You will need frequent doctor visits to make sure you and your baby are doing well. You will likely have:

  • Visits with your doctor once a week or more
  • Ultrasounds to monitor the size and movement of and fluid around your baby
  • A nonstress test to check how your baby is doing
  • Blood or urine tests

When to Call the Doctor

Call your health care provider right away if you:

  • Have swelling in your hands, face, or eyes (edema)
  • Suddenly gain weight over 1 or 2 days, or you gain more than 2 pounds in a week
  • Have a headache that does not go away or becomes worse
  • Are not urinating very often
  • Have nausea and vomiting
  • Have vision changes, such as you cannot see for a short time, see flashing lights or spots, are sensitive to light, or have blurry vision
  • Feel lightheaded or faint
  • Have pain in your belly below your ribs
  • Have pain in your right shoulder
  • Have problems breathing
  • Bruise easily 


Sibai BM. Hypertension. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2012:chap 35.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 8/23/2012
  • 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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