High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy

Pregnancy can bring a lot of excitement, joy and happiness; a phase of life when you will go through an array of biochemical and hormonal changes. During the course of pregnancy, you will also notice changes in blood pressure. High blood pressure in pregnancy can affect you and your baby, though when properly managed, it is not dangerous. See the types of blood pressure in pregnancy, how it is diagnosed and treated.

Last Updated: 22 October 2020

High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy
High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy
What is blood pressure?

·         Blood pressure is the force that moves blood through our circulatory system. This force is vital to push oxygen and nutrients around our circulatory system to nourish tissues and organs.

·         High blood pressure (hypertension) is when this force against your artery walls is too high.

·         Blood pressure is depicted as two numbers. The top number is systolic pressure which results as a result of heart muscle contraction.

·         The bottom number is diastolic pressure which is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. Normal blood pressure is 120 mm Hg (systolic) and 80 mm Hg (diastolic).

 Why High Blood Pressure during Pregnancy?

·         During pregnancy, the amount of blood circulating in the body increases up to 45%. The heart pumps this extra blood throughout the body.

·         During the early stages of pregnancy, from 5 weeks to middle of second trimester, blood pressure is likely to decrease due to the pregnancy hormones that widen the blood vessels. However high blood pressure can develop anytime during pregnancy.

·         High blood pressure during pregnancy is defined as 140 mm Hg or higher systolic and diastolic 90 mm Hg or higher.

 What causes high blood pressure in pregnancy?

Though the exact cause of high blood pressure in pregnancy is not known, some possible causes include

·         Obesity

·         Lack of physical activity

·         First time pregnancy

·         Smoking

·         Consumption of alcohol

·         Family history of blood pressure

·         Carrying more than one child

·         Age (over 35)

·         Having diabetes or other autoimmune diseases

·         Conception through IVF procedures

Types of high blood pressure during pregnancy

Blood pressure tends to vary from time to time. Some women may have normal blood pressure during the early stages of pregnancy and develop later on. Let us see how it is classified.

·         Chronic hypertension

Chronic hypertension is high blood pressure which occurs before a woman gets pregnant or the one that is seen before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Sometimes chronic hypertension can also lead to preeclampsia.

·         Gestational Hypertension

Some women tend to develop high blood pressure after 20 weeks of pregnancy which is termed as gestational hypertension. Usually there will not be any symptoms and it goes off after 12 weeks of delivery, but sometimes puts you at a risk to develop hypertension in the near future.

·         Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia usually occurs after the 20th week, especially in the third trimester. Preeclampsia includes signs of damage to your liver or kidney. The signs may include protein (albumin) in the urine and very high blood pressure. If left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to severe complications to you and your baby.

Besides high blood pressure, other possible symptoms of preeclampsia include swelling of face, hands and feet, persistent headache, difficulty in breathing, vision problems, and upper abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting.

Problems associated with high blood pressure in pregnancy

·         Growth restriction: Due to high blood pressure, there can be a decrease in the flow of nutrients to the baby through the placenta. This may lead to growth restriction and result in low birth weight babies.

·         Preterm delivery: Due to lack of oxygen supply to the fetus and also to prevent further complications of high blood pressure, sometimes an early delivery is planned.

·         Placental abruption: Preeclampsia increases your risk of this condition in which the placenta prematurely detaches from the inner wall of your uterus before delivery. This is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.

·         Future cardiovascular disease: Having pre-eclampsia might put you at a risk of developing cardiovascular diseases in the near future.


Diagnosis and treatment of high blood pressure in pregnancy

From your first prenatal visit, your blood pressure will be carefully monitored. Once it goes high, your doctor may advise prenatal check up once a week to monitor the pressure. If two or three readings are persistently high, you may have to undergo treatment using corticosteroids.

How to avoid high blood pressure during pregnancy?

·         Avoid smoking and alcohol

·         Maintain a proper weight with a right diet

·         Walking and other physical activity

·         Manage psychological stress by practicing yoga and meditation


High blood pressure in pregnancy is quite common. But it can be well managed with the right medication to prevent complications to you and your baby.

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