Preeclampsia is a pregnancy-related form of hypertension that occurs in fewer than 9 percent of all pregnancies worldwide. The ratio may seem small but the dangers to mother and child are quite serious. It is the life-threatening pregnancy complication that occurs most often.

Symptoms include high blood pressure, fluid retention, and the presence of significant amounts of protein in the urine. When preeclampsia is diagnosed between 20 and 32 weeks of pregnancy, it is said to be early onset and is associated with increased risks. Preeclampsia can develop as long as six weeks after childbirth, with risk highest during the first 48 hours. If left untreated, eclampsia can develop, bringing seizures that can be fatal.

The findings of a study presented in November 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia, at the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) Kidney Week annual conference suggests preeclampsia patients may be more prone to developing kidney disease later in life. The study was presented by Andrea Kattah, MD, of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

The Mayo study involved the review of patient records for 8,362 women who had babies in Olmsted County, Minnesota, from 1976 to 1982. Of this group of women, those who later experienced kidney failure were identified in the United States Renal Data System. For each woman in the renal data system, the research team compared medical records against two controls (women in the group of Minnesota mothers of similar medical characteristics but not diagnosed with kidney failure later in life).

Twenty women on both lists - Minnesota births and renal registry - were identified. Their kidney failure was diagnosed, on average, at age 52.6 years. Findings indicate:

Pregnancy-related preeclampsia or eclampsia:

  • 8 of the 20 cases (40 percent) with kidney failure
  • 5 of the 40 control cases (12.5 percent)


  • 50 percent of the renal failure patients
  • 15 percent of the control group


  • 80 percent of the renal patients
  • 45 percent of the control group

The research team says adjusting for the presence of diabetes and hypertension indicates no significant increased risk of kidney failure in patients who suffered preeclampsia or eclampsia. The study does indicate the need for further study involving larger numbers of patients.

Even though the risk of future diagnosis of chronic kidney disease and renal failure may seem insignificant in a study setting, the risk of preeclampsia on pregnancy is very significant. Any pregnant woman experiencing swelling of the hands, feet, and face should discuss the situation with a physician at the earliest possible opportunity.

Source: Preeclampsia During Pregnancy May Be Linked With Kidney Failure Risk. Science Daily. 9 Nov 2013. Web. 20 Nov 2013.