Delayed postpartum preeclampsia and eclampsia: demographics, clinical course, and complications

Obstet Gynecol. 2011 Nov;118(5):1102-1107. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e318231934c.


Objective: To estimate and evaluate the demographics, clinical course, and complications of delayed postpartum preeclampsia in patients with and without eclampsia.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of patients who were discharged and later readmitted with the diagnosis of delayed postpartum preeclampsia more than 2 days to 6 weeks or less after delivery between January 2003 and August 2009.

Results: One hundred fifty-two patients met criteria for the diagnosis of delayed postpartum preeclampsia. Of these, 96 (63.2%) patients had no antecedent diagnosis of hypertensive disease in the current pregnancy, whereas seven (4.6%), 14 (9.2%), 28 (18.4%), and seven (4.6%) patients had gestational hypertension, chronic hypertension, preeclampsia, and preeclampsia superimposed on chronic hypertension, respectively, during the peripartum period. Twenty-two patients (14.5%) developed postpartum eclampsia, and more than 90% of these patients presented within 7 days after discharge from the hospital. The most common presenting symptom was headache in 105 (69.1%) patients. Patients who developed eclampsia were significantly younger than those who did not (mean ± standard deviation, 23.2 ± 6.2 compared with 28.3 ± 6.7 years; adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1.13, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.02-1.26, P=.03), and other demographic variables were no different. A lower readmission hemoglobin was associated with a lower odds of progression to eclampsia (10.7 ± 1.7 compared with 11.6 ± 2.2 g/dL, adjusted OR 0.75, 95% CI 0.57-0.98, P=.04).

Conclusion: One week after discharge appears to be a critical period for the development of postpartum eclampsia. Education about the possibility of delayed postpartum preeclampsia and eclampsia should occur after delivery, whether or not patients develop hypertensive disease before discharge from the hospital.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Eclampsia / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Michigan / epidemiology
  • Patient Readmission
  • Postpartum Period*
  • Pre-Eclampsia / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seizures / epidemiology
  • Young Adult