What are symptoms of pre-eclampsia at 38 weeks?

Pre-eclampsia is a disorder that involves multiple systems in the body. By definition, pre-eclampsia is diagnosed when a pregnant woman develops hypertension (blood pressure more than 140/90 mmHg) and having leaking protein content in the urine sample.

This condition rarely presented with symptoms as people can adapt to the change in the blood pressure until it becomes too late. The name pre-eclampsia means “before the seizure”. Pre-eclampsia has several classical symptoms which can present late up until 38 gestation weeks. Here are some of the common presentations of pre-eclampsia at 38 gestation weeks.

  1. Headache

Headache can be very common in pregnant woman and is non-specific. Common causes of headache in pregnancy can include migraine, anaemia, dehydration and tension headache. However, in pre-eclampsia patient, headache typically not relieved by pain killers and often affect the forehead area. It is important for a pregnant woman to seek medical attention if they have recurrent headaches during pregnancy as pre-eclampsia can cause complications such as bleeding in the brain and seizure.

  1. Visual Disturbance


High blood pressure can affect the small calibre blood vessel in the eyes as well which can lead to problems such as blurred vision and flashing light. The symptom does not necessarily present with very high blood pressure. As with hypertension complication of the eye, untreated pre-eclampsia can cause permanent changes and damage to the eye leading to blindness.

  1. Central/Right Abdominal Pain

Also known in medical term as epigastric or right upper quadrant pain, this is often attributed to the effect of pre-eclampsia on the liver organ. As stated above, pre-eclampsia is a multisystem disease which not only affects the blood pressure and urine but also the liver as well. In the severe and not well-treated pre-eclampsia, a patient can develop a syndrome called HELLP Syndrome which comprises of hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells), elevated liver enzymes and low platelets. The increase in pressure both physiologically and chemically on the liver resulting in the abdominal pain and sometimes jaundice as well.

  1. Swelling of the face/limbs and shortness of breath

High blood pressure will cause more protein in the bloodstream to be filtered in the kidney which results in proteinuria (protein in the urine). If left untreated, the kidneys can have permanent damage and thus impedes their ability to filter the blood and removing the waste, therefore causing more water retention in the blood. This excess and unremoved water can spill out to the spaces in the limbs, face and in the lungs hence lead to the symptoms such as swelling of the limbs, face and shortness of breath respectively. These are serious symptoms of pre-eclampsia and needed to be treated as soon as possible.

  1. Nausea and Vomiting

These two are commonly encountered during the early weeks of pregnancy and is unusual to be presented late at pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia can cause recurrent and chronic nausea and vomiting that can extend to 38 gestation weeks. Hence it is important symptoms to note about.

Pre-eclampsia still affects a lot of pregnant women every year. The risk is not only for the mother but also for the developing fetus as well. Recognising early risk factors can put close monitoring and regular check-ups for high-risk women. Nowadays, online doctor consultation has been much useful for pregnant women to have easy and comfortable consultation regarding their risk factors and treatment. Online consultation by DoctorOnCall is a great platform to have a secure and private online consultation regarding pre-eclampsia matter.