Normal pregnancy is associated with the presence of circulating placental microvesicles (MVs). Increased MV shedding and altered immune activation are seen in patients with preeclampsia, suggesting that placental MVs may play a role in the pathophysiology of this disease. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate the activation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) by MVs shed by first-trimester, normal term, and preeclamptic term placenta. First-trimester and preeclamptic term, but not normal term, placental-derived MVs activated PBMCs, as evidenced by elevated IL1B. Significant changes were also seen with several other cytokines and chemokines, and in general when compared to normal term MVs, preeclamptic MVs induced a greater pro-inflammatory response in PBMCs. Pretreatment of PBMCs with first-trimester or normal term placental MVs resulted in a dampened IL1B response to a subsequent lipopolysaccharide (LPS) challenge. In contrast, treatment of PBMCs with preeclamptic term placental MVs exacerbated the LPS response. This was also the case for several other cytokines and chemokines. These studies suggest that placental MVs can modulate basal peripheral immune cell activation and responsiveness to LPS during normal pregnancy, and that in preeclampsia this effect is exacerbated.