Hypertension, or high blood pressure in pregnancy, is when blood pressure (the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood) is too high. Some women have high blood pressure before getting pregnant, and some develop it during pregnancy.
Preeclampsia, a life-threatening blood pressure disorder, can happen during pregnancy or after pregnancy. Therefore, it is critical to monitor blood pressure before, during, and after pregnancy.
If you’re thinking about having a baby but have high blood pressure, speak to a doctor so you can take steps to reduce or control your high blood pressure before, during, and after your pregnancy. Without treatment, hypertension in pregnancy can lead to serious health complications for the pregnant woman, the baby, or both.
Some medicines used in treating high blood pressure are not recommended during pregnancy. And that is why you need to talk to a physician about your choices for safely managing high blood pressure during your pregnancy.
This post delves into everything encompassing high blood pressure or hypertension in pregnancy.
What is normal blood pressure in pregnancy?
Normal blood pressure in pregnancy is equal to or less than 120/80 mm Hg. Measuring blood pressure is in millimetres of mercury (mmHg), and the measurement has two numbers. The systolic (top) number is the pressure of your blood against the walls of your arteries when your heart contracts and pumps blood, while the diastolic (bottom) number is when the heart relaxes and fills with blood.
High blood pressure is detected when either the systolic or diastolic number (or both) is at an unhealthy level (e.g 140/90 mm Hg). There are guidelines for blood pressure readings during pregnancy, and these guidelines are different for people who are not pregnant. They are;
— Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg
— Mild hypertension: Higher than 140/90 mm Hg
— Severe hypertension: Higher than 160/110 mm Hg
When you schedule for homecare visit or you visit a healthcare near you, a medical assistant will measure your blood pressure at each prenatal visit. They may also ask you to monitor your blood pressure at home.
Before concluding that you have high blood pressure, the medical assistant will perhaps take your blood pressure readings at least two different time intervals. That’s usually done because your blood pressure varies throughout the day, and it can drop down when you’re relaxed and up when you’re stressed or active.
Some people can have an above-normal blood pressure reading; the reason being that they get nervous at the doctor’s office. In such cases, the occurrence is called “white-coat hypertension.”
If your blood pressure reading is raised, readings will be taken again in 15 minutes. If it’s still high, a decision will be made on what to do next based on your gestational age, current blood pressure, previous blood pressure, and medical history.
If your reading is in the severe range, you’ll be sent to the hospital for evaluation, where you’ll receive foetal monitoring, intravenous (IV) meds, and blood work. If your reading is in the mild range, you may still need to be seen at the hospital for monitoring and blood work, or you may receive oral medication, directions to return to the office for monitoring, and further testing in the office.
Obstetricians and gynaecologists (OB-GYN), and even midwives take high blood pressure in pregnancy very seriously because of the possible serious complications for both mother and baby. Therefore, be sure to follow medical directions.
What are the types of high blood pressure in pregnancy?
In certain cases, high blood pressure begins before pregnancy. In other cases, the condition develops during pregnancy. If you have high blood pressure before pregnancy, it will need to be managed during and after pregnancy.
In addition, some women who have healthy blood pressure can develop high blood pressure during or after pregnancy. So, monitoring blood pressure before, during, and after pregnancy is vital.
Moving forward, three main types of high blood pressure may be experienced in pregnancy. They are;
— Chronic hypertension: This type of hypertension exists before pregnancy or is diagnosed before 20 weeks of pregnancy. If you have a high blood pressure reading early in your pregnancy, you may have had hypertension before you became pregnant. Having hypertension before becoming pregnant can also be called preexisting or pregestational hypertension.
Another name for diagnosing a woman who has high blood pressure for longer than 12 weeks after delivery is chronic hypertension. Having chronic hypertension can subject you to the risk of having preeclampsia later in pregnancy. It’s been said that about 1 in 4 pregnant women with chronic hypertension develop preeclampsia.
Suggestions have been made that women with pre-pregnancy hypertension should be treated with blood pressure medication during their pregnancy to keep their blood pressure below 140/90 mmHg. For those with readings above 160/110 mmHg, conventional wisdom has encouraged treatment only.
Women who are treated more quickly had fewer severe complications, and their foetuses grew just as normally as those with no hypertension.
— Gestational hypertension: This high blood pressure in pregnancy happens for the first time at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later. A woman with new-onset hypertension during pregnancy, but not preeclampsia, are diagnosed with this condition.
Usually, women with gestational hypertension have just a small rise in blood pressure, but 10 to 25 per cent of women may show signs of preeclampsia later in pregnancy. Gestational hypertension is temporary and almost often goes away after childbirth, but it does put some women at higher risk for having chronic hypertension later in life.
— Preeclampsia: Women who suffer from this condition have high blood pressure after 20 weeks of pregnancy and signs that certain organs are not working properly. Blood and urine tests will be carried out by medical officials for signs of preeclampsia (e.g protein in your urine).
The rate of preeclampsia is continuously rising and this increase may be due to higher rates of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes, or more women having babies at a later age. Preeclampsia that occurs before 32 weeks of pregnancy is called early-onset preeclampsia, though it can also occur after childbirth.
If you’ve suffered from preeclampsia, you’re at heightened risk for heart attack, kidney disease, stroke, as well as high blood pressure later in life. Your risk of preeclampsia in subsequent pregnancies is elevated, too. There’s a condition called superimposed preeclampsia. It occurs when a person already has chronic high blood pressure and develops preeclampsia.
What are the symptoms of high blood pressure in pregnancy?
High blood pressure usually doesn’t cause any noticeable symptoms except when it’s dangerously high. Therefore, you may not notice any symptoms until your blood pressure is measured. Nevertheless, high blood pressure can sometimes cause vision changes (blurred or double vision) and persistent headaches.
What causes high blood pressure in pregnancy?
It’s unclear what causes high blood pressure during pregnancy, but the risk factors are;
- Being overweight (having a body mass index, or BMI, over 30)
- Age (the older you are, the higher the risk)
- Carrying twins or higher multiples
- Drinking more than two alcoholic drinks a day
- Poor nutrition, especially a diet that lacks fruits and vegetables
- Having a personal or family history of gestational hypertension or preeclampsia
- Eating too much salt
- Having had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy
- Being sedentary
Why is hypertension in pregnancy a problem?
This condition can be life-threatening; it can affect the mother, the child, or both. Below are the following risks associated with hypertension in pregnancy;
— Less blood flow to the placenta: High blood pressure in pregnancy causes less blood flow to the placenta. If the blood flowing through the placenta is insufficient, the foetus might receive less oxygen and fewer nutrients. This can lead to premature birth, slow growth (intrauterine growth restriction), or low birth weight. Premature babies may have an increased risk of infection, breathing problems, and other complications.
— Injury to organs: Uncontrolled or poorly controlled high blood pressure can cause injury to the kidneys, liver, brain, heart, eyes, lungs, and other major organs. Severe cases can even be deadly.
— Placental abruption: This condition separates the placenta from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery. High blood pressure and preeclampsia are said to be the two primary factors that increase the risk of placental abruption. And when there’s severe abruption, heavy bleeding can occur which can be life-threatening for the mother and child.
— Intrauterine growth restriction: High blood pressure might lead to slowed or decreased foetal growth.
High blood pressure in pregnancy is relatively common; it can develop at any point in time (before, during, and after pregnancy). Without prompt and appropriate treatment, it can become worsened and even life-threatening.
While hypertension often causes no symptoms, it is vital to monitor blood pressure regularly and throughout pregnancy. Being committed to routine checkups, you’ll be able to prevent high blood pressure from becoming severe.
Speak to a doctor immediately if you notice any symptoms of hypertension while pregnant.