Can pregnancy spike your blood pressure? Find out here

Hypertension or high blood pressure can strike during pregnancy. Here’s what you need to know on how to tackle the situation

Keep a check on any abnormalities during pregnancy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Bharathi Ramesh Published on: 22 January 2022, 22:10 pm IST
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Women go through several complications during pregnancy due to several factors like lifestyle, stress, underlying medical conditions, etc. Some women can develop hypertension during this time, and that needs regular monitoring. If managed well, pregnant women with hypertension, is not necessarily a major cause of worry for the mother and the baby as the issue is preventable and treatable.

What causes high blood pressure during pregnancy?

Some of the possible causes of high blood pressure during pregnancy are:

* Obesity
* Smoking or drinking alcohol
* Lack of physical exercises
* The woman is over 35 years old age
* Pregnant with IVF or other assisted reproductive technologies (ART)
* Diabetes
* Autoimmune disorders

Types of high blood pressure diseases during pregnancy

1. Chronic hypertension:

Some women have pre-existing high blood pressure before pregnancy. This is called chronic hypertension. High blood pressure that develops in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy is also called chronic hypertension. Women with chronic hypertension can develop pre-eclampsia, a pregnancy complication, during the second and third trimesters.

2. Gestational hypertension:

Women develop gestational hypertension after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It usually goes away after delivery. There is also a higher chance that gestational hypertension develops into pre-eclampsia.

3. Pre-eclampsia:

Some women develop hypertension suddenly after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Usually, there is excess protein in the urine, but in some cases, women can develop pre-eclampsia without any signs of protein. It can cause damage to organs like kidneys, liver, brain, or blood. The mother and the baby can also develop seizures.

 hypertension and pregnancy
Dear ladies, get your blood pressure checked regularly. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Some signs and symptoms of pre-eclampsia are:

* Excess protein in the urine or proteinuria
* Nausea/vomiting
* Pain in upper stomach
* Sudden weight gain
* Shortness of breath
* Changes in vision (blurry vision, sensitivity to light or temporary loss)
* Swelling on the face and hands (but swelling can develop in a normal pregnancy too)

Chronic hypertension with superimposed pre-eclampsia:

Women suffering from chronic hypertension before pregnancy can develop pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. This can cause additional complications for both the mother and the child.

Risks of having hypertension during pregnancy

High blood pressure can cause several complications and risks for women. Some of them are:

1. High blood pressure can sometimes lead to premature delivery to avoid further complications;
2. Untreated hypertension can cause damage to organs like kidneys, liver, lungs, brain, etc;
3. Hypertension can cause intrauterine growth restriction (when a baby does not grow as expected);
4. Pre-eclampsia can cause placenta abruption, a condition in which the placenta detaches from the uterus. This can cause heavy bleeding;
5. The risk of developing cardiovascular disease increases if a woman has pre-eclampsia or premature birth due to hypertension;
6. If not treated properly, high blood pressure can cause the death of the baby, and sometimes the death of the mother too.

 hypertension and pregnancy,
Take medications if needed, to control hypertension during pregnancy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Medications for hypertension during pregnancy

Treating hypertension is very important, as it puts you at risk of stroke, heart attack, and other complications for your baby as well. Some traditional medicines are not safe to take during pregnancy like an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), angiotensin receptor blockers, and renin inhibitors.

Your doctor will prescribe medicines that are safe to take during pregnancy. Drugs like labetalol and methyldopa are usually recommended by doctors to manage blood pressure.

Preventing hypertension and complications

Obesity, lack of physical exercise, and proper diet are a few common risk factors of hypertension. If these are made right, your chances of developing hypertension during pregnancy will reduce. You must speak to a nutritionist to create a meal plan, as part of your daily diet. Avoid smoking and drinking as they increase the risk of developing high blood pressure.

If you have high blood pressure during pregnancy, it is important to manage it well. Take medications as prescribed by your doctor and stick to your prenatal appointments.

Stress is also one of the risk factors of hypertension. During pregnancy, women deal with stress due to hormonal and psychological changes. Therefore, try some relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, etc.

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About the Author
Dr Bharathi Ramesh Dr Bharathi Ramesh

Senior Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Banashankari, Bengaluru

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