Hypertension or a high blood pressure is increasing issue among pregnant women. More than 25.8% of women, aged 20-44 in the United States suffer from it. The condition is defined when the blood pressure is above 140/90 mm Hg. Although, it isn’t always dangerous, there are some possible complications. One of the most common is preeclampsia (1), which occurs if the high blood pressure lasts for more than 20 weeks during pregnancy.
Causes of high blood pressure during pregnancy
During pregnancy, a woman body will go through a series of changes. Usually, the body can compensate the added level of stress without any side effects. Sadly, some factors may cause hypertension. The most common causes are:
- Poor lifestyle- Obese or overweight women are prone to developing high blood pressure more than those who have average weight. The same applies to women who are not active and who don’t take care of their lifestyle.
- Smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy- These are the most severe and the most dangerous causes of hypertension during pregnancy. (Expanded Reading: Things to Avoid During Pregnancy)
- First Pregnancy- Women who are pregnant for the first time are more likely to develop this condition.
- Age of pregnancy- All of the new mothers who are aged 40 and above have higher chances of developing hypertension as well.
- Multiple fetuses- It means that a mother will give birth to more than just one baby. Due to additional stress, the body cannot cope properly.
- Hypertension before pregnancy- If you already suffered from hypertensions, before you got pregnant, from of condition during pregnancy will be significantly increased.
- IVF usage- Using IVF or other methods for assistance for conception may cause the main issue here.
Types of high blood pressure during pregnancy
There are several types of hypertension which may occur during pregnancy. Each one is characterized differently and each one must be treated in a different way.
- Chronic high blood pressure- Chronic hypertension is when a mother already suffers from the condition before she got pregnant. Most doctors diagnose this type if it occurs within 20 weeks of the pregnancy started.
- Gestational- It is diagnosed after 20 weeks and it usually goes away after the childbirth. Keep in mind that if you have the condition after 30 weeks of pregnancy, preeclampsia may occur.
- Chronic high blood pressure and superimposed preeclampsia- This is a condition which is defined as chronic hypertension with additional issues which will occur during pregnancy. The most common one is protein in the urine.
Symptoms of high blood pressure are:
- Vision issues
- Pain in the chest
- Urine contains blood
- Heartbeat issues
- Breathing becomes difficult
In order to determine the blood pressure and to keep eye on it, you will have to have a precise readings of the systolic and diastolic blood pressure. It is also important to measure the blood pressure frequently.
Systolic blood pressure is actually a value which your heart archives in the arteries, while it pumps out the blood.
Diastolic blood pressure is the value of the blood pressure while your heart is at rest.
Most women who have hypertension during the first 10-20 weeks of pregnancy don’t need to worry about it. Usually, it solves all by itself within the given time frame. However, if the high blood pressure continues after 20 weeks, there are 2 main possible complications.
The condition may cause severe damages to several organs in the mother’s body. The damages include brain and kidneys the most. It is a common issue which is defined as high blood pressure caused by pregnancy itself. If there are seizures, preeclampsia may become eclampsia (2) (a condition with possible fatal outcome). Symptoms are:
- Protein will be detected in the urine
- Swelling of your feet and hands
HELLP (3) stands for hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count and it may be a complication of the preeclampsia. Make sure to have regular checks to your doctor, just to be certain you are not in the risk. HELLP syndrome may cause damages to main organs and must be medically treated as soon as possible.
Treatment includes lowering the blood pressure or in some cases even premature delivery. Symptoms are:
- Abdominal pain
Treatment for hypertension during pregnancy
The first part of the treatment is to change the lifestyle. Lose weight and stop smoking. Avoid drinking alcohol as well and make sure you have plenty of physical activity each day. The bottom line when it comes to prevention is to eliminate all the factors from your lifestyle which we mentioned at the beginning. Usually, this is all what you are going to need.
Medications which are normally used to fight high blood pressure may be dangerous for you during pregnancy. It means that you must avoid:
- Renin and ACE inhibitors
- Angiotensin blockers
On the other side, there are a few medications that were approved as safe to use during pregnancy. They are:
Treatment for preeclampsia is one of the most common in the situation in question. You may be given the magnesium sulfate, which will prevent the future seizures. If you are 34 weeks pregnant or less, doctors may give you antenatal corticosteroids. It is used to speed up the lung forming process of a baby and to postpone the delivery for additional 48 hours. After childbirth, blood pressure should go back to normal. However, some mothers experience this only after 6 weeks, while others get a normal blood pressure after 24 hours.
Here we must add the fact that your treatment will depend on the factors that caused hypertension and on type of it. In most cases, changing the lifestyle and making a few minor modifications is sufficient, but additionally, you may need to take medications we mentioned. If you have had hypertension before pregnancy, now is the right time to switch to pregnancy-safe alternatives.
The bottom line is that high blood pressure during pregnancy isn’t normally dangerous and it can be easily treated, but only if it is detected early in the process. Make sure to have regular controls with your healthcare provider.