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What causes preeclampsia?

We don’t know what causes preeclampsia. But there are some things that may make you more likely than other women to have it. These are called risk factors. Risk factors for preeclampsia include: 
  • You had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy.
  • You’re pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets or more).
  • You have high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease or an autoimmune disease like lupus or antiphospholipid syndrome. An autoimmune disease is a health condition that happens when antibodies (cells in the body that fight off infections) attack healthy tissue by mistake.
If your healthcare provider thinks you’re at risk of having preeclampsia, he may want to treat you with low-dose aspirin to help prevent it. Talk to your provider to see if treatment with aspirin is right for you. Learn more at: marchofdimes.org/preeclampsia
We don't know what causes preeclampsia, but there are several theories, including:
  • Not enough blood getting to the uterus
  • Hormonal imbalances affect the size of blood vessels
  • Damage or injury to blood vessel linings
  • Too little calcium
  • Undiagnosed high blood pressure or other conditions, such as diabetes, lupus, sickle cell disease, hyperthyroidism or kidney disease
  • Immune system deficiency
  • Too little or too much protein in the diet
  • Poor diet (not enough fruits and vegetables)
  • High levels of body fat
  • Too little magnesium and vitamin B6
There is some evidence that vitamin D deficiency may increase risk of preeclampsia. A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that vitamin D levels were generally lower in women with early severe preeclampsia compared with those of healthy pregnant women. Talk to your healthcare professional about vitamin D and how to boost your intake with food and/or supplementation.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.