For Physicians. By Physicians.™

ObGFirst: Get guideline notifications, fast. First month free!Click here

ACOG Preeclampsia Guidelines: Antenatal Management and Timing of Delivery


Recommendations for prenatal assessment and perinatal management, including delivery, are included in the ACOG preeclampsia and gestational hypertension guidelines.

Inpatient vs Outpatient Management

  • Ambulatory management (outpatient) appropriate for the following
    • Gestational hypertension without severe features or
    • Preeclampsia without severe features
  • Inpatient management appropriate for the following
    • Severe preeclampsia or
    • Poor adherence to monitoring recommendations

How to Measure BP

  • Recommended technique for BP monitoring
    • Appropriate cuff size: 1.5 times upper arm circumference
    • Avoid tobacco or caffeine: Use in the 30 minutes preceding the measurement may lead to temporary rise in blood pressure
    • Patient should be upright after a 10-minute rest period
    • Inpatient setting: Measurement may be taken either
      • Sitting up or
      • Left lateral recumbent with arm at the level of the heart

Fetal and Maternal Assessment (Outpatient – No Severe Features)

Fetal Assessment

  • Fetal growth assessment every 3-4 weeks
  • Amniotic fluid assessment weekly
  • Antenatal testing 1-2 times per week

Maternal Assessment

  • Labs weekly (more frequently if concern that patient status is deteriorating)
    • Serum creatinine | Liver enzymes | Platelet count
    • Gestational hypertension: Include proteinuria
    • Note: If proteinuria is present, additional proteinuria measurements are not necessary
  • Clinical evaluation: At least one visit per week in-clinic
    • Obtain BP and evaluate for severe features (see ‘Related ObG Topics’ below)
      • Combination ambulatory and in-clinic assessment
    • BP and symptom assessment are recommended “serially”, using a combination of in-clinic and ambulatory approaches, with at least one visit per week in-clinic
  • sFlt-1/PlGF ratio to predict progression to preeclampsia with severe features
    • FDA approved | Studied in population of hospitalized patients between 23 and 35 weeks
    • ACOG states

There are insufficient data to recommend management strategies after a positive or negative test result

The sFlt-1:PlGF ratio alone should not replace current clinical criteria for diagnosing or excluding a diagnosis of preeclampsia with severe features


Delivery vs Expectant Management

  • Decision regarding management based on gestational age and results from the following evaluation
    • Maternal: CBC | Creatinine | LDH, AST, ALT | Proteinuria | Uric acid if superimposed preeclampsia suspected
    • Fetal: EFW | Amniotic fluid volume | Antenatal testing (BPP, NST)
  • Candidate for expectant management
    • Gestational hypertension or preeclampsia without severe features <37w0d
    • Reassuring antenatal testing
    • Intact membranes
    • No vaginal bleeding
    • No evidence of active preterm labor
    • Note: Delivery at 37w0d | HYPITAT trial showed no benefit to expectant management beyond 37 weeks
  • Candidate for delivery (expectant management not advised)
    • Severe range hypertension unresponsive to antihypertensive agent(s)
    • Persistent headache or persistent RUQ/epigastric pain unresponsive to treatment
    • Visual disturbance or altered sensorium or motor deficit
    • Stroke or MI
    • HELLP syndrome
    • Worsening renal function (Cr above 1.1 or double the baseline)
    • Pulmonary edema
    • Eclampsia
    • Placental abruption or bleeding in the absence of placenta previa
    • Abnormal antenatal testing
    • Fetal demise
    • Fetal lethal anomaly or extreme prematurity
    • UA Doppler REDF
    • Note: Fetal growth restriction, if other fetal assessment parameters are within normal range, is not an indication for delivery

Expectant Management for Severe Preeclampsia

  • Shared decision making: Consider risk/benefit
    • Expectant management for severe preeclampsia provides benefit to fetus/newborn but potential risk to mother
  • Risks of expectant management in the presence of severe features
    • Pulmonary edema | MI | Stroke | ARDS | Coagulopathy | Renal failure | Retinal injury
  • ≥34w0d: Delivery is recommended
    • Do not delay delivery to administer steroids in late preterm
  • <34w0d: Expectant management for women who are clinically stable 
    • Associated with higher GA (on average 1-2 weeks) at delivery | Improved neonatal outcomes
    • “Low maternal risk” in studies
    • Requires close maternal and fetal monitoring with serial laboratory testing
      • Deliver if maternal or fetal status deteriorates
    • Corticosteroid administration is recommended
      • “May not always be advisable” to delay delivery when indicated to provide full steroid course

Learn More – Primary Sources:

ACOG Practice Bulletin 222: Gestational Hypertension and Preeclampsia

Pre-eclampsia: pathophysiology and clinical implications

FIGO: A literature review and best practice advice for second and third trimester risk stratification, monitoring, and management of pre-eclampsia

ACOG Clinical Practice Update: Biomarker Prediction of Preeclampsia With Severe Features

Locate a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist

Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist Locator-SMFM

Diagnosing Preeclampsia – Key Definitions and ACOG Guidelines


Preeclampsia is a pregnancy specific hypertensive disease with multi-system involvement. It usually occurs after 20 weeks of gestation and can be superimposed on another hypertensive disorder. While preeclampsia was historically defined by the new onset of hypertension in combination with proteinuria, some women will present with hypertension and multisystemic signs in the absence of proteinuria. The presence of multisystemic signs is an indication of disease severity.


Diagnostic Criteria

Blood Pressure Criteria

  • Hypertension – systolic BP > 140 mm hg or diastolic BP > 90 mm hg or both
    • On two occasions at least 4 hours apart after 20 weeks gestations with previously normal BP
    • Considered ‘mild’ until diastolic BP > 110mm hg or systolic BP ≥160 mm Hg
  • Severe Hypertension – systolic BP > 160 mm hg or diastolic BP > 110 mm hg or both
    • Can confirm using a short time interval (e.g., minutes) to facilitate timely antihypertensive therapy

Note: Gestational Hypertension

  • ACOG defines gestational hypertension as “hypertension without proteinuria or severe features develops after 20 weeks of gestation and blood pressure levels return to normal in the postpartum period”
  • Caution and close follow-up is warranted as up to a half of women with gestational hypertension will go on to manifest signs an symptoms consistent with preeclampsia
  • Women with severe gestational hypertension, even in the absence of proteinuria should be managed similar to women with severe preeclampsia
  • ACOG states

Women with gestational hypertension with severe range blood pressures (a systolic blood pressure of 160 mm Hg or higher, or diastolic blood pressure of 110 mm Hg or higher) should be diagnosed with preeclampsia with severe features.

Proteinuria Criteria

  • 24 hour urine collection >300 mg protein or
  • Single voided urine protein/creatinine ratio ≥0.3
  • Dipstick reading of 2+ (use only if other quantitative methods not available)

Preeclampsia Definitions


  • Hypertension and proteinuria or
  • In absence of proteinuria, new-onset hypertension with the new onset of any of the following
    • Thrombocytopenia: Platelets <100 x 109/L
    • Renal insufficiency: serum creatinine >1.1 mg/dl or doubling of serum creatinine in the absence of other renal disease
    • Impaired liver function: Elevated blood concentrations of liver transaminases to twice normal concentration
    • Pulmonary edema
    • Neuro: Unexplained new-onset headache unresponsive to medication (without an alternative diagnosis) or visual symptoms

Preeclampsia with severe features

  • Preeclampsia diagnosis, above, with any of the following
    • Severe hypertension
      • On two occasions at least 4 hours apart while on bed rest (unless already on antihypertensive therapy)
    • Thrombocytopenia: Platelets <100 x 109/L
    • Impaired liver function (without an alternative diagnosis): Elevated liver transaminases greater than twice upper limit of normal or severe persistent right upper quadrant or epigastric pain not responsive to medications
    • Progressive renal insufficiency: serum creatinine >1.1 mg/dl or doubling of serum creatinine in the absence of other renal disease
    • Pulmonary edema
    • Neuro: Unexplained new-onset headache unresponsive to medication (without an alternative diagnosis) or visual symptoms

Note: The following are not diagnostic criteria for the diagnosis of preeclampsia or preeclampsia with severe features

  • Clinically evident edema
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Massive proteinuria
    • Does not qualify as a ‘severe feature’
  • Fetal growth restriction
    • ACOG states that while it is important to monitor fetal status, FGR in the setting of all other fetal assessment being within normal limits (e.g., AFV, Doppler), expectant management ‘may be reasonable’ if mother and fetus appear stable and no other clinical indication is present that would indicate the need for early delivery
  • Uric acid
    • Hyperuricemia in hypertensive pregnancy is not a diagnostic marker, but is an important finding as a risk factor for adverse maternal and fetal outcomes
      • Small for gestational age (SGA) infant
      • Prematurity
      • Risk for adverse maternal outcomes if include patients with preeclampsia and risks increase with increasing concentration of uric acid
    • May be warranted in the setting of ‘diagnostic dilemmas’ such as diagnosing superimposed preeclampsia in the setting of chronic hypertension

Learn More – Primary Sources

ACOG Practice Bulletin 222: Gestational Hypertension and Preeclampsia

National Partnership for Maternal Safety Consensus Bundle on Severe Hypertension During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period

Plasma uric acid remains a marker of poor outcome in hypertensive pregnancy: a retrospective cohort study

Pre-eclampsia: pathophysiology and clinical implications