Pre-eclampsia, a syndrome of pregnant women, is one of the leading causes of maternal and fetal morbidity and mortality. Despite active research, the etiology of this disorder remains an enigma. Recent work has, however, provided promising explanations for the causation of the disorder and some of its phenotypes. Evidence indicates that the symptoms of hypertension and proteinuria, upon which the diagnosis of pre-eclampsia is based, have several underlying causes. Nevertheless, the treatment of pre-eclampsia has not changed significantly in over 50 years. This review describes the most recent insights into the pathophysiology of pre-eclampsia from both basic and clinical research, and attempts to provide a unifying hypothesis to reconcile the abnormalities at the feto-placental level and the clinical features of the maternal syndrome. The novel findings outlined in this review provide a rationale for potential future prophylactic and therapeutic interventions for pre-eclampsia.