High Blood Pressure during Pregnancy

Blood pressure will change through the various stages of your pregnancy as your body goes through a variety of changes. It will be checked by your midwife (midwives are specialists in pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum and women’s sexual and reproductive health) at your visits.

If you have high blood pressure in pregnancy before week 20 it’s possible that it was a pre-existing condition and will continue to be high after the birth of your baby. If you start to experience high blood pressure after week 20 it’s called gestational hypertension and will usually go away after the birth.

Reasons for hypertension during pregnancy

Unhealthy lifestyle choices may lead to high blood pressure during pregnancy. Being overweight or obese or failing to stay active, are major risk factors for high blood pressure. First time pregnancy, family history of hypertension or age above 40 are also factors for high bp during pregnancy.

What is important to know?

Gestational hypertension, also referred to as pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH) is a condition characterized by high blood pressure during pregnancy. Gestational hypertension can lead to a serious condition called preeclampsia.

This condition can cause serious damage to your organs, including your brain and kidneys. Preeclampsia is also known as toxemia. Preeclampsia with seizures may become eclampsia. This can be fatal.

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, low birth weight or preterm birth. Prematurity can lead to breathing problems for the baby.
  • Placental abruption. Preeclampsia increases your risk of placental abruption, in which the placenta separates from the inner wall of your uterus before delivery. Severe abruption can cause heavy bleeding and damage to the placenta, which can be life-threatening for both you and your baby.
  • Premature delivery. Sometimes an early delivery is needed to prevent potentially life-threatening complications.
  • Future cardiovascular disease. Having preeclampsia increases your risk of future heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease. The risk is even greater if you’ve had preeclampsia more than once or you’ve had a premature birth. To minimize this risk, after delivery try to maintain your ideal weight, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly and don’t smoke.

Blood pressure medications during pregnancy:

Any medication you take during pregnancy can affect your baby. Although some medications used to lower blood pressure are considered safe during pregnancy, others — such as angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) and renin inhibitors — are generally avoided during pregnancy.
Treatment is important, however the risk of heart attack, stroke and other problems associated with high blood pressure doesn’t go away during pregnancy. And high blood pressure can be dangerous for your baby too.

If you need medication to control your blood pressure during pregnancy, your doctor will prescribe the safest medication at the most appropriate dose. Take the medication exactly as prescribed. Don’t stop taking the medication or adjust the dose on your own.