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Acute pulmonary oedema in pregnant women is an uncommon but life-threatening event. The aims of this review are to address why pulmonary oedema occurs in pregnant women and to discuss immediate management. We performed a systematic literature search of electronic databases including MEDLINE, EMBASE and the Cochrane Library, using the key words obstetrics, pregnancy, acute pulmonary oedema, pregnancy complications, maternal, cardiac function and haemodynamics. We present a simple clinical classification of acute pulmonary oedema in pregnancy into pulmonary oedema occurring in normotensive or hypotensive women (i.e. without hypertension), and acute pulmonary oedema occurring in hypertensive women, which allows focused management. Pre-eclampsia remains an important cause of hypertensive acute pulmonary oedema in pregnancy and preventive strategies include close clinical monitoring and restricted fluid administration. Immediate management of acute pulmonary oedema includes oxygenation, ventilation and circulation control with venodilators. Pregnancy-specific issues include consideration of the physiological changes of pregnancy, the risk of aspiration and difficult airway, reduced respiratory and metabolic reserve, avoidance of aortocaval compression and delivery of the fetus.