PreEclampsia and Chinese medicine

pregnant woman standing on calm body of water

An article in New Scientist (26 Nov 2022) reports Swedish research ( on the effect on children of preeclampsia in their mothers. The children prenatally exposed to preeclampsia are up to 34% more likely to experience a stroke or ischaemic heart disease (IHD) by the age of 19 than other children.

Other research shows that such children are also more likely than their peers to have high blood pressure.

Note that the percentage of such children who subsequently suffered stroke of IHD was still small. Also, the stroke risk associated with this preeclampsia was highest in infancy. That is followed by a rapid decline until the age of 10 years. After 18 the magnitude of the association remains relatively constant.

Preeclampsia risks

Preeclampsia can lead to convulsions (convulsions are usually due to Liver Wind in Chinese medicine).

During pregnancy this may be serious for both mother and child.

So doctors monitor the mother’s condition very carefully. For example, whereas blood pressure of 140/90 might be a little high for non-pregnant women, it could be serious for someone pregnant, not least because a pregnant woman’s blood pressure can be very volatile and symptoms develop very fast.

Note, according to the research the associated risks for stroke were higher for severe forms of preeclampsia.

In Chinese medicine, preeclampsia is usually due to a combination of deficiency of Kidney yin and/or Liver yin combined with Liver Yang ascending.

That children prenatally exposed to preeclampsia should be more susceptible to stroke or heart problems isn’t yet understood in Western medicine as far as I know. The research proposes several explanations:

  1. shared familial environmental and genetic factors
  2. development programming.


I surmise that Chinese medicine also has an answer.

There are two parts to this.

  1. If you survive your mother’s preeclampsia which entails surviving the high blood pressure it nearly always produces, this will put a strain on your own yin energies, particularly your Kidney and Liver yin energies. That means that as you start out in life after birth you are already at somewhat of a disadvantage.
  2. You may have inherited your mother’s susceptibility to Liver and/or Kidney deficiency. (However, so might have your siblings, unless your mother’s health was better when gestating them.) In Chinese medicine this is explained, at least in part, by the concept of jing-essence.
Inherited predisposition from preeclampsia to stroke or IHD?
Inherited genes and their actions – jing-essence in Chinese medicine

Either way, these deficiencies will make you more susceptible to high blood pressure and its associated dangers.

What to do?

If you inherit this Liver and/or Kidney yin deficiency, then with Chinese medicine you should seek treatment for it. The aim would be to reduce your likelihood of suffering the stroke or IHD linked to your mother’s preeclampsia.

Both herbs and acupuncture might help. Personally, I would first go for acupuncture which usually produces faster results, but you might back it up with appropriate herbal formulae. For these you’d need to consult someone qualified.

How might you gauge whether your treatment was working? By how well your symptoms of Liver and/or Kidney deficiency improve. You should also find that you sleep better, have lower blood presssure, recover your energy faster, react to events with more consideration and, where necessary, alacrity, and so on… In other words, you become more healthy!

In addition, read our pages on Liver and Kidney yin deficiency to understand why these syndromes come into existence and how to reduce their likelihood.


Another question: why does this preeclampsia research only go up to age 19?

Maybe this was because following cohorts of teenagers into adult life after age 19 was a problem. (They say “we could not examine the risks of IHD and stroke in middle age or older age”.) Or maybe it is because the main growth phase ends around 19 when Liver and Kidney energies at last ‘catch up’ and the balance between yang growth and yin constitution begins to balance out.

(In other words, you reach a better state of ‘adulthood’.  This is defined in the same issue of the New Scientist: perhaps most appropriately in a letter to the editor which suggests that when you find yourself owning a lawn-mower, your youth has ended!)

Note, because information on race and ethnicity was sensitive they did not collect it. Instead, the research used country of origin as a proxy for ethnicity.

What if you suspect you have preeclampsia?

Click here for the symptoms of preeclampsia. On that page there’s a video in which a midwife explains the warning signs of preeclampsia.

If you are pregnant and have the symptoms listed there, please get Western medical aid fast. Go to your local hospital or your GP if a local hospital isn’t possible. And hurry!

This is not to say that Chinese medicine can’t treat it, but you require 24 hour monitoring: most acupuncturists, at least in the West, cannot provide this.

Hospitals Can! Go There!


How Chinese medicine explains other common diseases

How Chinese medicine explains and might treat other health issues? Click on Common Diseases.

Jonathan Brand colours

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