SOURCE: Preeclampsia Foundation

Preeclampsia Foundation

January 28, 2013 06:00 ET

Historical Drama Hits Home With Modern Day Health Problem Reports the Preeclampsia Foundation

MELBOURNE, FL--(Marketwire - Jan 28, 2013) - The Preeclampsia Foundation today issued a statement responding to Downton Abbey, a popular television show, which aired last night with an unexpected plot twist. This response is to clarify historical facts and to inform viewers that the maternal death portrayed in the historical drama is still a tragic and needless complication of pregnancy.

The British Downton Abbey television drama has a loyal American following on PBS. Last night, 8 million viewers were shocked when one of the show's beloved characters, Lady Sybil Crawley, died from eclampsia after giving birth. Although this TV series represents life in the early 1900's, women in the U.S. and elsewhere still die or suffer terrible outcomes from the hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (e.g., preeclampsia, eclampsia, HELLP syndrome), leaving many viewers grieving, not only for the character, but also because of their own similar tragedies.

Earlier this morning, The Daily Beast ( featured an op-ed piece about the Preeclampsia Foundation's perspective.

Preeclampsia is characterized by a large rise in blood pressure and failing kidneys, and eclampsia is the name for seizures during pregnancy. Every year in the U.S., 5 to 8 percent (up to 300,000) pregnant and postpartum women develop a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy with approximately 75,000 of them suffering severe adverse outcomes such as organ failure, massive blood loss, permanent disability, death, premature birth and/or death of their babies.

"There were many scenes that resonated for preeclampsia survivors," said Eleni Tsigas, Executive Director of the Preeclampsia Foundation. "The symptoms she experienced, interactions with physicians, false confidence after a healthy delivery, the widower's heartbreak, and the resulting guilt all ring very true to survivors. However," she adds, "the apparent inability of the physicians to intervene during her seizure was not an accurate portrayal."

Magnesium sulfate was introduced in 1906 to treat eclamptic seizures, and although it was not universally used until the 1990s, other anticonvulsants and manual interventions would have been used in the early 1900s. This and other historical facts are available today on the Preeclampsia Foundation's website:

Today, pregnant women are routinely monitored during prenatal care visits for signs of preeclampsia, but that wasn't always the case. In Downton Abbey, a London physician dismisses the concerns of Lady Sybil and her family. "Sadly, some medical providers still dismiss women's concerns," says Tsigas. "Women need to be aware of symptoms, keep prenatal appointments, and report between visits if they don't feel well. Sometimes they have to be persistent in getting medical attention. At our website, women will find many resources to become informed and find support."

The Preeclampsia Foundation is a U.S.-based not-for-profit patient advocacy organization whose mission is to reduce maternal and infant illness and death due to preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders of pregnancy by providing patient support and education, raising public awareness, catalyzing research and improving health care practices. For more information, visit

Contact Information