Council Commentary

Raising Awareness of Preeclampsia Worldwide

On May 22, 2017, the Population Council will continue its long-standing commitment to reducing preventable maternal deaths from hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, including pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, by co-sponsoring the first-ever World Preeclampsia Day

The inaugural World Preeclampsia Day arrives at a time when, despite the innovation and progress within the global maternal health community, 830 women still needlessly die every day from pregnancy- or childbirth-related causes. Twenty percent of those deaths are from pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, the second leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide, following obstetric hemorrhage.

Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia is a life-threatening, hypertensive disorder related to pregnancy. It most often arises during the second half of pregnancy, but can happen before, during, or after delivery. It can affect both the mother and unborn baby, leading to seizures, kidney and liver damage, and death, and increased risk of preterm births, low birth-weight, anemia, and stunting. One in four preterm infants dies as a result of the mother’s pre-eclampsia and eclampsia. These deaths are preventable, yet essential medicines and tools to treat this disorder are often unavailable in low-resource settings.

A call to action

In recognition of the disorder, Population Council, World Preeclampsia Day co-sponsors BabyCenter, Preeclampsia Foundation, PRE-EMPT, and the International Society for the Study of Hypertension in Pregnancy, and more than 30 global partners have committed to:

  • Call upon governments and health systems to recognize the importance of preventing and treating these disorders;
  • Encourage additional research into what works to expand access to treatment of preeclampsia, prevention of eclampsia, and related disorders and;
  • Prioritize patient and community education and treatment for these disorders;
  • Enhance education, training, and access to medical resources for healthcare providers;
  • Address prevention through a better understanding of the conditons’ causes and through access to appropriate, safe, and effective treatments; and
  • Encourage collaboration and partnerships between public and private sector organizations to support and advance these goals.


How can research help?

Council research into the prevention of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy has led to significant gains in Bangladesh, Mexico, Nigeria, and Pakistan, and more recently in Ethiopia and Kenya. Findings in Nigeria, for example, showed that task shifting the administration of magnesium sulphate (MgSO4) to primary facility providers can reduce maternal mortality by 40 percent.

Ongoing research through the Population Council-led Ending Eclampsia project is examining health system bottlenecks and the increased uptake and quality of antenatal care via women’s groups, and aims to shine a light on postpartum pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, an under-recognized but common occurrence.

On the inaugural World Preeclampsia Day, the Council and partners urges the prioritization of evidence-based solutions for reducing this devastating but preventable cause of maternal and newborn morality. For more information or to join the endorsing organizations, visit