High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy


What Is High Blood Pressure? When the heart pumps blood through the arteries, the blood in the arteries exerts a pressure on the walls of the arteries. The upper reading is the force when the heart pumps and lower reading is the force exerted when the heart relaxes. Normal blood pressure may vary from 90/60 to 120/80. When a person’s blood pressure is consistently between 120-139/80-89, he/she is said to have pre-hypertension. If the blood pressure is consistently over 140/90 you are diagnosed to have high blood pressure or hypertension. Uncontrolled high blood pressure, or hypertension, contributes to the development of coronary heart disease, stroke, heart failure and kidney disease.   What Are the Effects of High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy? High blood pressure during pregnancy can be dangerous for both the mother and the baby. Women with pre-existing high blood pressure are more likely to have complications during pregnancy than those with normal blood pressure. Some women develop high blood pressure during pregnancy; this is called Gestational Hypertension.   High blood pressure during pregnancy can cause:
  • Decreased blood flow to the placenta, which reduces the baby's supply of oxygen and nutrients, increasing the risk of a low birth weight.
  • Premature separation of the placenta from the uterusdepriving the baby of oxygen and cause heavy bleeding in the mother.
  • Sometimes an early delivery is needed to prevent potentially life-threatening complications.
  • Women who develop preeclampsia — a serious condition characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy — might be at increased risk of heart disease later in life, despite the fact that their blood pressure returns to normal after delivery.
  What Is Preeclampsia? Preeclampsia is a condition that typically starts after the 20th week of pregnancy and is related to increased blood pressure and protein in the mother's urine. Preeclampsia affects the placenta, and it can affect the mother's kidney, liver, and brain. When preeclampsia causes seizures, the condition is known as eclampsia. Preeclampsia is a leading cause of fetal complications, which include low birth weight, premature birth, and stillbirth. Warning signs of preeclampsia — which can develop gradually or strike suddenly, often in the last few weeks of pregnancy — may include:
  • Persistent headaches
  • Changes in vision, including blurred vision, flashing lights, sensitivity to light and vision loss
  • Upper abdominal pain, usually on the right side
  • Sudden weight gain, typically more than 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms) a week. Swelling, particularly in the face and hands, often accompanies preeclampsia as well.
There is no proven way to prevent preeclampsia. Most women who develop signs of preeclampsia, however, are closely monitored to lessen or avoid related problems. The only way to "cure" preeclampsia is to deliver the baby.   How Can Women with High Blood Pressure Prevent Problems During Pregnancy? If you are thinking about having a baby and you have high blood pressure, talk first to your doctor. Taking steps to control your blood pressure before and during pregnancy - and getting regular prenatal care will go a long way toward ensuring your well-being and your baby's health.

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