A form of high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy, gestational hypertension occurs in almost 5–8 percent of all pregnant women worldwide. In India, preeclampsia is slightly higher and is reported to be 8-10 percent and nearly one million cases are reported every year.
Gestational hypertension is different from chronic hypertension as the former happens after the woman becomes pregnant while the latter happens when a woman already had high blood pressure before becoming pregnant. It is also different from preeclampsia and eclampsia, which are other blood pressure problems that women can experience during their pregnancy. Further, gestational hypertension generally occurs during the second half of pregnancy and typically goes away after the child’s birth.
The exact cause of gestational hypertension is unknown, and there is no one particular reason why it occurs in women. Some of the risk factors for gestational hypertension include having a pre-existing condition of high blood pressure during the past pregnancy, kidney disease and diabetes, all of which are major risk factors. Further, if the woman is younger than 20 years or older than 40 years or is carrying twins or triplets, the risk of gestational hypertension is higher.
It is a complex condition and can have a profound impact on the health of the mother and new-born baby. This condition needs to be controlled so that it does not have any adverse effect on either the mother or the fetus. Some significant complications include eclampsia (seizures), low weight in new-born babies, bleeding during pregnancy and postpartum haemorrhage. At the same time, in more severe cases, it can also result in multiple organ failures of the liver, kidney, and heart, leading to the death of the mother and child.
Since gestational hypertension is a specific health condition, the symptoms can occur differently in different women. It is also possible that some women do not display any symptoms while others might display signs, especially in the second half of their pregnancy term. Some common signs that indicate gestational hypertension include:
Since its symptoms can be dangerous for both the mother and the unborn child, the treatment process includes oral medicines that help to control the blood pressure levels, close fetal monitoring of the unborn child, blood tests and sonography tests that can alert the doctor towards any specific reason for concern promptly. Due to these risks, the doctor and hospital team may also decide that the mother should have the baby early to avoid any adverse outcomes. In such a case, the childbirth may happen before 37 weeks of pregnancy. After delivery, it goes away, although it may take almost six weeks for the blood pressure to return to normal levels. In a few cases, gestational hypertension can also signify early-onset chronic hypertension.
In conclusion, gestational hypertension cannot always be prevented, so early diagnosis can offer the best outcome and reduce complications. Also, diagnosis of this condition is super critical, which is another reason why prenatal check-ups are essential for any pregnant woman. They are vital in helping the pregnant woman and her unborn child stay healthy and alert the doctor in case of any signs of distress.
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