What Is High Blood Pressure In Pregnancy?
High Blood Pressure In Pregnancy?
Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is when this force against your artery walls is too high. There are different types of high blood pressure in pregnancy:
- Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure that you develop while you are pregnant. It starts after you are 20 weeks pregnant. You usually don’t have any other symptoms. In many cases, it does not harm you or your baby, and it goes away within 12 weeks after childbirth. But it does raise your risk of high blood pressure in the future. It sometimes can be severe, which may lead to low birth weight or preterm birth. Some women with gestational hypertension do go on to develop preeclampsia.
- Chronic hypertension is high blood pressure that started before the 20th week of pregnancy or before you became pregnant. Some women may have had it long before becoming pregnant, but didn’t know it until they got their blood pressure checked at their prenatal visit. Sometimes chronic hypertension can also lead to preeclampsia.
- Preeclampsia is a sudden increase in blood pressure after the 20th week of pregnancy. It usually happens in the last trimester. In rare cases, symptoms may not start until after delivery. This is called postpartum preeclampsia. Preeclampsia also includes signs of damage to some of your organs, such as your liver or kidney. The signs may include protein in the urine and very high blood pressure. Preeclampsia can be serious or even life-threatening for both you and your baby.
Why is high blood pressure a problem during pregnancy?
High blood pressure during pregnancy poses various risks, including:
- Decreased blood flow to the placenta. If the placenta doesn’t get enough blood, your baby might receive less oxygen and fewer nutrients. This can lead to slow growth (intrauterine growth restriction), low birth weight or premature birth. Prematurity can lead to breathing problems, increased risk of infection and other complications for the baby.
- Placental abruption. Preeclampsia increases your risk of this condition in which the placenta separates from the inner wall of your uterus before delivery. Severe abruption can cause heavy bleeding, which can be life-threatening for you and your baby.
- Intrauterine growth restriction. Hypertension might result in slowed or decreased growth of your baby (intrauterine growth restriction).
- Injury to your other organs. Poorly controlled hypertension can result in injury to your brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and other major organs. In severe cases, it can be life-threatening.
- Premature delivery. Sometimes an early delivery is needed to prevent potentially life-threatening complications when you have high blood pressure during pregnancy.
- Future cardiovascular disease. Having preeclampsia might increase your risk of future heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease. Your risk of future cardiovascular disease is higher if you’ve had preeclampsia more than once or you’ve had a premature birth due to having high blood pressure during pregnancy.
Can I Have A Healthy Pregnancy With High Blood Pressure?
It is ideal to see your doctor before you become pregnant. This gives your healthcare provider an opportunity to see if your high blood-pressure is under control and review your medications. Certain medications are not safe during pregnancy and can harm your baby.
During pregnancy, chronic hypertension can worsen, especially if you develop preeclampsia in addition to chronic hypertension. If this happens, you may develop complications such as congestive heart failure, vision changes, stroke, seizures, and kidney or liver problems.
How May High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy Affect My Baby?
It is possible to have chronic hypertension and go on to have a healthy baby. However, chronic hypertension has the possibility of a number of adverse effects on your developing baby.
These possible concerns include:
- Impairment of the baby’s growth
- Higher risk of breathing problems before or during labor
- Higher risk of placental abruption (placenta separating from the uterus before labor)
- Possible side effects from the medications you are taking.
How Can I Manage My High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy?
Although there is no cure for chronic hypertension, there are ways to successfully manage your condition when pregnant. Taking care of yourself is the best way to take care of your developing baby.
Below are some examples:
- Eat a healthy diet, and especially limit your sodium intake
- Take your blood pressure medications the way you are supposed to
- Keep all your prenatal appointments
- Stay physically active, although your healthcare provider may prescribe bed rest if you develop preeclampsia
- Do not smoke, drink alcohol, or take illicit drugs
- Monitor your weight gain—do not gain too much
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