Preeclampsia: the misconceptions and warning signs

Mar 10, 2023

Preeclampsia is a potentially deadly pregnancy complication for both the mother and the unborn fetus. Its definition has been evolving over the years. Previously, the diagnostic criteria was composed of a triad of high blood pressure, swelling in the hands and feet, and protein in the urine. Today, the focus for diagnosis is largely based on high blood pressure readings although the presence of protein in the urine is still an important element of the diagnostic criteria.

“It’s important to be vigilant about the signs,” Dr. Melanie Altizer, Chief of OB/GYN and Facility Medical Director of OB hospitalists at St. Mary's Medical Center said. “The message I want to get across to the public is to monitor your blood pressure at home.” Preeclampsia is associated with strokes, brain damage, and cardiovascular issues.

Dr. Altizer says any blood pressure reading of 140/90 should prompt you to contact your healthcare provider. Blood pressure readings 160/110 are considered severe. Preeclampsia usually presents after 20 weeks of pregnancy. High blood pressure prior to 20 weeks of pregnancy is typically labeled chronic hypertension.

A common misconception about preeclampsia is that once the baby is born, the risk goes away. In fact, risk is still elevated after delivery. Risk remains until six weeks after delivery, when your body returns to pre-pregnancy physiology.

“Some moms are diagnosed after delivery,” Dr. Altizer said.

Women diagnosed during pregnancy deliver their baby no later than 37 weeks, sometimes earlier depending on the severity.

At St. Mary’s Medical Center, we offer an array of obstetrics-related services. We are home to a 45-bed(largest in Palm Beach County) level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit(NICU), the highest level designated by the state in case your delivery doesn’t go quite as planned. Through Palm Beach Children’s Hospital at St. Mary’s, your baby will have direct access to the numbers pediatric sub-specialties.

We also employ an Obstetrics Patient Navigator, who are dedicated to acting as a liaison, advocate and counselor while ensuring our team provides exceptional patient care through seamless coordination.

We regularly offer maternity tours and classes. To find out more about our obstetrics service, visit us online here: To learn more about preeclampsia, visit:

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