In a case-control study we assessed whether exposure to high job strain during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy increases the risk of preeclampsia and gestational hypertension. Cases (128 with preeclampsia and 201 with gestational hypertension) and controls (N = 401) were primiparous women who had a paid occupation for at least 1 week during the first 20 weeks of their pregnancy and who delivered between 1984 and 1986 in 10 hospitals of Quebec, Canada. Based on their job title, we assigned women scores of psychological demand and decision latitude derived from the National Population Health Survey and classified these women as exposed to high (high demand, low latitude) versus low (low demand, high latitude) job strain. Women exposed to high job strain were more likely to develop preeclampsia [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 2.1; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.1-4.1] than women exposed to low job strain. The risk was quite similar for women exposed to a full-time, high strain job (> or =35 hours per week) (aOR = 2.0) than in a part-time, high strain job (aOR = 1.8). High job strain increased the risk of gestational hypertension slightly (aOR = 1.3; 95% CI = 0.8-2.2). These results indicate that women exposed to high job strain are at higher risk of developing preeclampsia and, to a lesser extent, gestational hypertension.