Pre-eclampsia is a complex pregnancy complication whereby high blood pressure arises in the second half of pregnancy. It affects 5% of first time mothers. Globally 70,000 women and 500,000 babies die every year as a direct result of pre-eclampsia. For the mother, it can lead to acute problems in the liver, kidneys, brain and the clotting system, and pre-eclampsia is the most important cause of maternal death in Europe - accounting for 17-24% of all maternal deaths. A quarter of the babies born to mothers with preeclampsia are growth restricted and a third are premature.
Preeclampsia, fetal growth restriction (undernourished baby) and spontaneous preterm birth are the major complications of late pregnancy. They are leading causes of illness and death in mothers and newborn babies. In the developed world, in almost half the cases either the mother and/or baby require admission to an intensive care unit. Every year, an estimated $41 billion is spent on healthcare costs related to these pregnancy diseases.
All three conditions can have lifelong consequences for the child. The child may have problems with brain development that can result in mild learning difficulties through to severe disabilities. Being born growth restricted predisposes the child to high blood pressure, heart attacks and diabetes as an adult. The social consequences and lifelong economic costs resulting from these conditions are enormous. Prevention of these health problems is of paramount importance to future mothers, fathers and children.