Preeclampsia (PE), which affects about 2% of pregnancies, is a major cause of maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality. PE can be subdivided into early onset PE with delivery <34 weeks' gestation and late onset PE with delivery ≥34 weeks. Early onset PE is associated with a higher incidence of adverse outcome. This review illustrates that effective screening for the development of early onset PE can be provided in the first-trimester of pregnancy. Screening by a combination of maternal risk factors, mean arterial pressure, uterine artery Doppler, maternal serum pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A and placental growth factor can identify about 95% of cases of early onset PE for a false-positive rate of 10%. © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.