Hypertension During Pregnancy

Do you have high blood pressure? Here's the info you need to keep you and baby healthy throughout your pregnancy.
ByMichele Hakakha, MD
Feb 2017
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Photo: Lior Zilberstein

What is hypertension?

High blood pressure is also known as hypertension (or gestational hypertension, if you developed it during pregnancy). It’s usually defined as a top (systolic) BP reading of more than 140 mm Hg or a bottom (diastolic) reading of more than 90 mm Hg.

What are the signs of hypertension?

You may have no signs, other than an elevated blood pressure reading when your doc takes it at a prenatal appointment. Some moms-to-be with high blood pressure also experience  headaches or nosebleeds.

Are there any tests for hypertension?

Yes, you’ll probably have your blood pressure checked at your usual prenatal visits.

How common is hypertension during pregnancy?

High blood pressure occurs in about 6 to 8 percent of all pregnancies in the US.

How did I get hypertension?

There’s sometimes no explanation for why a mom-to-be gets high blood pressure, but genetics, diet and lifestyle could be factors.

How will my hypertension affect my baby?

Hypertension puts baby at a greater risk for low birth weightpreterm delivery and placental abruption.

What’s the best way to treat hypertension during pregnancy?

Sounds scary, and yes, in some cases it can be dangerous, but often a woman who develops high blood pressure during pregnancy just needs to be more closely monitored. That’s not just because high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, heart failure or kidney disease. It’s because in some cases, it may also be a sign of other complications during pregnancy, such as  preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome.

You may be given certain medications to minimize your risk of kidney or other organ damage and your baby’s risk of a low birth weight or preterm delivery. Your urine will likely be routinely checked for heightened levels of protein (a sign of kidney problems), which can mean you’ve developed preeclampsia — which usually leads to an early delivery.

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What can I do to prevent hypertension?

Healthy diet and exercise can help prevent hypertension; so can being a nonsmoker.

What do other pregnant moms do when they have high blood pressure?

“I was diagnosed with hypertension when I was 20, after a bad reaction to birth control pills.  I have been on medication for it since. When I got pregnant, my family doctor referred me to a cardiologist, who switched me to Labetalol.  It took a few weeks to get my medicine adjusted to the right levels, but once we did, I haven’t had to increase my dosage and my blood pressure has actually been better in pregnancy than it was pre-pregnancy. ”

“I took Methyldopa (aka Aldomet) during my last pregnancy and maxed out on it right around 28 wks.  Its one of the safest drugs but its an old one so people typically need multiple doses over a period of time to get it to work right. "

“When my blood pressure went up I started having other signs and symptoms of preeclampsia at the same time. So right now my blood pressure is controlled on other meds, but if my labs don’t remain stable the only cure is to deliver the baby.”

Are there any other resources for hypertension?

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