What You Need to Know About High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

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  • The rate of hypertensive disorders during pregnancy has significantly increased over the past years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Whether you developed high blood pressure before or during your pregnancy, it’s absolutely important to inform your physician about it, since you may need to be closely monitored to lessen or avoid complications

During the course of your pregnancy, your doctor may tell you that your blood pressure levels are higher than normal. Don’t panic — hypertension is not an uncommon pregnancy complication. Pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH) actually affects approximately 1 of every 14 pregnant women.

It is more common in first-time pregnancies and women over 40, but it can also can frequently occur in twin or multiple pregnancies.1,2 However, the rate of hypertensive disorders during pregnancy has significantly increased over the past years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.3

Whether you developed high blood pressure before or during your pregnancy, it’s absolutely important for you and your physician to continuously monitor it, so you can lessen or avoid complications.4 While hypertension is indeed a serious cause for concern in pregnant women, it can be managed if you know how to take care of yourself and your unborn baby.5

Risk Factors of High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

There’s a variety of factors that may increase a woman’s susceptibility to high blood pressure during pregnancy, including:6,7

Being overweight or obese

Smoking

Drinking alcohol

Sedentary lifestyle

Age (over 40 years old) or younger than 20

Use of assistive technology, such as IVF

First-time pregnancy

Family history of pregnancy-related hypertension

Carrying more than one child

Types of Pregnancy-Related Hypertension

Cases of pregnancy-related high blood pressure are categorized depending on their symptoms and whether they occurred before or during pregnancy. These categories include:8,9

Gestational hypertension — This is the form of hypertension that develops after the 20th week of pregnancy. Its common complication is induced labor, but women who were diagnosed with this before their 30th week of pregnancy may have a higher risk of developing preeclampsia.

Chronic hypertension — Pre-existing high blood pressure or hypertension that developed during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy is considered chronic hypertension.

Chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia — This form of hypertension is diagnosed if you already have high blood pressure before conceiving but also experienced additional hypertension-related complications during pregnancy.

How Does High Blood Pressure Affect Your Pregnancy?

Most cases of pregnancy-related hypertension usually resolve after delivery, but if left uncontrolled, high blood pressure may adversely affect the safety and health of both the mother and the unborn child. Some of its common complications include:10,11,12

Preeclampsia — Also called toxemia, preeclampsia is a potentially fatal complication characterized by damage to major body organs, particularly the brain, kidney and liver.

Some of its common symptoms include excess protein in your urine, severe headaches, nausea, and sudden weight gain and swelling, among others.

Decreased blood flow to the placenta — When the flow of blood to the placenta is inhibited, your baby will receive less oxygen and nutrients. This can lead to slow growth or premature birth.

Placental abruption — This is a condition wherein the placenta, or a part of it, has separated from the uterine wall before the baby is born. Your risk for developing this complication increases when you have preeclampsia.

Intrauterine growth restriction — Your baby may be born smaller than normal if you have high blood pressure during pregnancy, since constricted arteries may limit the amount of oxygen and nutrients that gets into the placenta.

Preterm birth — If you experience life-threatening complications due to high blood pressure, you may need to deliver your baby even before the 38th week of pregnancy.13

Cesarean birth — Pregnant women with severe preeclampsia due to uncontrolled high blood pressure may have to give birth through C-section, which can put them at risk of postpartum complications such as bleeding, blood clots, infections and longer recovery time.14

It’s important to note that having preeclampsia or undergoing premature delivery due to uncontrolled high blood pressure may also make you more susceptible to future cardiovascular diseases.15

Here’s What You Can Do to Reduce the Risk of Complications

To avoid complications that may put you and your baby’s health at risk, make sure that you take good care of your health. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that’s high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D and fiber. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to eat for two if you’re pregnant — this will only put you at risk for obesity.

You should also stay active and get a few minutes of exercise daily. Be sure to avoid substances that may harm you and your baby, such as cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. Make it a point to schedule regular prenatal appointments with your physician in order to keep track of your health and your baby’s development.16

MORE ABOUT HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE

High Blood Pressure: Introduction

What Is High Blood Pressure?

High Blood Pressure Range

High Blood Pressure Symptoms

High Blood Pressure Causes

High Blood Pressure Medications

High Blood Pressure Treatment

How to Control High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure Remedies

High Blood Pressure Side Effects

High Blood Pressure Headache

High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

High Blood Pressure Prevention

High Blood Pressure Diet

Essential Oils for High Blood Pressure

Herbs for High Blood Pressure

Supplements for High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure FAQ

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