If you are pregnant, then it is likely that your doctor has checked your blood pressure just about every time you’ve seen her. That’s because strict blood pressure control is absolutely essential for you and your unborn child.
If your blood pressure is too low during pregnancy, then your baby may not be getting enough blood perfusion to grow properly. If it’s too high, then you can have issues with your placenta and actually end up delivering early.
Blood pressure control can be hard for some women, especially if you are diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. This disease process is still pretty unknown but causes high blood pressure and edema in later stages of pregnancy.
If kept unchecked, then you can develop eclampsia and develop seizures. Fortunately, as soon as the baby is born, most women go back to their regular normal blood pressures and don’t have any issues with high blood pressure.
If you already had high blood pressure before you become pregnant, then your pregnancy isn’t going to suddenly drop your BP to a normal range.
For this reason, it’s absolutely essential to tell your doctor about any BP issues you had before you got pregnant. You may just need to take a loose dose blood pressure pill throughout your pregnancy to keep your body in check.
High blood pressure is defined as any BP over 140/90. If you develop or already have high blood pressure throughout your pregnancy, then it is likely that you will be watched closely and have to return to your doctor’s office frequently for BP checks.
If at any time during your pregnancy your BP reaches 140/90 or goes higher, then your doctor may do a few things.
First, they’ll probably check for protein in your urine. This is usually done by collecting all of your urine over a 24 hour period and checking for total protein. If the protein content is high, then you may need to be hospitalized.
Second, your doctor will start you on BP medications. There are a few safe to take BP medications that you can have during your pregnancy.
Risk Factors for Hypertension
Hypertension may disrupt your pregnancy due to a few reasons. Women who have any of the following risk factors are at risk for developing high blood pressure during their pregnancy.
All women carrying their first child are also at risk for hypertension since their bodies aren’t used to carrying babies just yet.
Types of Pregnancy-Related Hypertension
Chronic hypertension, gestational hypertension, and pre-eclampsia are the three main types of hypertension that can occur during pregnancy.
Chronic hypertension is any type of high blood pressure that already existed before you become pregnant. Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure after your 20th week of pregnancy.
Pre-eclampsia occurs when women have gestational hypertension and also develop protein in their urine.
Reasons for High BP During Pregnancy
While you’re pregnant, your blood volume can increase by almost 50%. All of this extra blood has to be pumped through your heart and throughout your body.
Thus, your cardiac output has to increase and your BP may increase to help pump the blood throughout your body. Since your blood volume will normalize after pregnancy is over, your BP should normalize as well.
Complications of High BP
One of the greatest complications of high blood pressure is the development of pre-eclampsia and then eclampsia.
Your doctor might take a series of blood pressure readings and lab investigations to know if you’re suffering from preeclampsia.
If there is protein in your urine then it means that your kidneys can’t keep up with your high BP. Over time, this may lead to edema, headaches and even more protein loss.
HELLP syndrome is another scary complication of high blood pressure. HELLP stands for hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and a low platelet count.
Overall, this condition is life-threatening and can be fatal for both you and your baby. The only way to treat HELLP syndrome is to deliver the baby.
High blood pressure may also lead to premature birth due to placental abruption and lead to low birth weight. Your placenta is full of blood vessels that constantly perfuse.
If the pressure inside of these blood vessels grows too high, then your placenta can shear off of the uterine wall and leave your baby without oxygen.
High blood pressure is a scary complication that can occur during pregnancy. However, if you go to all of your prenatal visits and keep an eye on your BP, then you and your baby should be fine.