Exactly what causes eclampsia is not fully understood. Factors that may contribute are blood vessel problems, disorders of the brain or nervous system, genetics and diet.
Eclampsia arises from preeclampsia, a form of gestational hypertension, so women with a history of preeclampsia in a prior pregnancy or with a history of high blood pressure are at higher risk. Other possible causes leading to eclampsia include carrying more than one baby, and a history of diabetes, kidney disease, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
African-American women are at a higher risk of preeclampsia, as are women over age 35, teen pregnancies and first pregnancies.