High Blood Pressure In Pregnancy And How To Avoid High BP?

Medically reviewed by Maria Sarino, MD FACT CHECKED

Hypertension or high blood pressure during pregnancy is normal, and an expecting mother could develop it at any time.

The problem should be addressed at once because if left untreated it may lead to serious complications both for the mother and the infant. In most cases, the problem is preventable and treatable. It may occur at any phase during the pregnancy.

Moreover, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of pregnant women who suffered from high blood pressure in the United States was almost doubled in the period ranging from 1993 to 2014.

You may also check this CDC article for other details.

Also, I have tried to cover most of the important things that you need to be aware of about hypertension during pregnancy and how to manage the same.

If your blood pressure measurements are greater than or equal to 140/90mm of mercury consistently, then there are high chances that you are suffering from hypertension during pregnancy. Pregnant women might fall prey to the below-listed types of high blood pressure:

  • Chronic Hypertension

    Women suffering from this type of hypertension develop the problem either after becoming pregnant or within the first half of their pregnancy. Such a condition may develop an abnormal amount of protein in the urine which further indicates problems with the kidneys. This condition may as well change their liver function to some extent.

    Not to miss, there is a study going on on the treatment of this type of hypertension. This might provide some concrete inferences once the study is completed in the year 2022.

  • Gestational Hypertension

    This type of high blood pressure occurs only during pregnancy without the change in liver function or the presence of protein in the urine. The expecting mothers develop this condition in the second half of their pregnancy. Gestational hypertension is temporary and goes away after the birth of the child. But it may increase the risk of developing hypertension in their future life.

  • Preeclampsia

    This type of hypertension develops during pregnancy. It may as well develop after giving birth. It is a severe condition that comes with severe consequences. Preeclampsia occurs in the third trimester. In some rare cases, it may occur after delivery as well. Some of the symptoms of this problem include dizziness, headache, high BP, proteinuria, weight gain because of fluid retention, swelling on the hands and face, shortness of breath, irritability, and others.

    More on it here.

Hypertension And Its Complications For The Mother 

This condition must be addressed immediately because if your hypertension is severe or uncontrollable, it may pose several health complications for the mother not only during the pregnancy but later in life as well. 

One study has revealed that gestational hypertension may lead to heart attack, heart disease, failure of the heart, and ischemic stroke.

At the same time, one such condition or complication could be Eclampsia.

If your problem is not controlled at the right time, it may also lead to gestational diabetes. Another complication of hypertension is a rare life-threatening blood and disorder called HELLP. Other complications of hypertension for mothers include stroke, pre-term delivery, placental abruption, etc.

HELLP stands for hemolysis, Elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count. Hemolysis refers to the breakdown of the red blood cells. On the other hand,  Elevated liver enzymes could cause liver damage.

In the end, platelets are used to form blood clots and thus, low platelet count could be fatal for the human body.

Not to miss, pregnancy-induced hypertension may as well cause stillbirth. More details about the same here.

Hypertension And Its Complications For The Baby

Hypertension not only complicates the health of the mother but the baby as well. Many studies have concluded that high blood pressure increases the risk of poor birth outcomes like babies smaller than the average size, preterm delivery, and infant death.

When the mother’s blood vessels are affected because of high blood pressure, it also decreases the flow of nutrients through the placenta for the baby.

The pre-term delivery caused as a result of hypertension can lead to several complications in the baby and difficulty in breathing in one of them. 

Causes Of Hypertension During Pregnancy  

There are various possible causes of hypertension in pregnant women like not practicing any physical activity, being overweight, drinking and smoking, carrying more than one child, family history of pregnancy-related high blood pressure, assistive reproductive technology, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, etc.

In some cases, the age factor also has a lot to do with hypertension in pregnant women. Expecting mothers over 35 years of age are at a higher risk of developing the same.

Avoiding Hypertension During Pregnancy

The first step is to keep monitoring your blood pressure from time to time. If the blood pressure is high, get in touch with your doctor at the earliest. Alongside this, you can also manage hypertension during pregnancy by working on the following tips:

  • Do Not Consume Salt And High-Sodium Foods

    It is essential to keep a check on your salt intake to manage your blood pressure during pregnancy. Avoid adding a lot of salt to your meals. If the food is too bland to your taste, enhance the flavor by using spices and herbs.

    Do not consume fast food, processed food, and aerated drinks that are high in sodium. Avoid canned products as well.

    More on it here.

  • Practice Controlled Breathing

    One of the easiest ways using which you can control hypertension during pregnancy is by practicing controlled breathing.

    Deep breathing has an instant relaxing effect on the mind and body. It helps to lower down your stress level, hence stabilizing your blood pressure. Every time you practice deep breathing, the oxygenated blood delivers to each cell of your body, that makes you feel relaxed.

    Here is a detailed article about the same.

  • Take Walks

    Taking walks has positive effects on managing the problem of high blood pressure. Inactive pregnant women are at a higher risk of hypertension.

    Walking is an excellent cardiovascular exercise that you can practice in any month of your pregnancy. You can engage in low-intensity walking.

    If you are enrolling in any other exercise program, it is best-advised to have a word with your doctor before doing so.

    The same has been confirmed in this governmental paper.

  • Eat What Is Right

    Add potassium-rich foods into your daily diet to manage hypertension. Eat food items such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, orange juice, kidney beans, banana, dried fruits, cantaloupe, and melon. Always keep your potassium levels moderate.

  • Listen To Music

    Listening to the right type of music for at least 30 minutes a day can lower blood pressure to a great extent. Apart from this, music also helps you deal with all sorts of stress and anxiety.

    You can try listening to low-pitch and low-tempo music without loud instrumentation to feel calm and relaxed. Soft music during pregnancy creates a beautiful bonding experience between you and the baby.

    There are some positive aspects discussed here as well.

  • Check Your Weight

    As stated, being overweight is one of the risk factors for developing hypertension. Hence, you must monitor your weight from time to time and keep your pregnancy weight gain within the limits suggested by your doctor.

    Harmful effects of increased weight on blood pressure are discussed here.

  • Schedule Your Prenatal Appointments

    It may be crucial to visit your healthcare provider regularly to keep your high blood pressure in control throughout your pregnancy. Your healthcare provider might even suggest you to seek physical activity and stay active. Once you visit your healthcare provider, you may focus on your health diet that could help to evade hypertension.

  • Know What Is Off-Limits

    One of the major reasons that could lead to hypertension during pregnancy might be certain elements or substances which you have been consuming. So you may always speak with your healthcare provider to know what is off-limits for you. You may avoid smoking, consuming liquor, and even limit your caffeine consumption to 2-3 cups a day. Sometimes you may even not consume certain illicit drugs or over-the-counter medications unless and until approved by your doctor.

  • Other Tips

    1. It is best-advised to get early prenatal medical care. Do not stop any medication without talking to your doctor.
    2. Quit smoking and drinking at the earliest as they put stress on your heart, leading to hypertension.
    3. Limit the intake of caffeine during pregnancy.
  • A detailed guide on the prevention.

Can I Take Hypertension Medication During Pregnancy?

The first and foremost thing that you need to take care of is, you should not consume any medication without the consultation of a medical professional.

Your physician would be the best person to guide you in this regard. Having said that, some of the blood pressure medications might be considered safe during pregnancy, others are not.

Medications like angiotensin 2 receptor blockers, renin inhibitors, and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors could prove to be fatal during pregnancy.

Since high blood pressure might be quite fatal for your baby and you, you should control it during pregnancy. It could lead to heart attacks, strokes, and several other diseases.

Hence, the safest method could be to connect with your healthcare provider who may provide you the best medication in the most appropriate dose. Then you should not stop taking the medication and consume it as prescribed.

Details here.

How To Prepare For High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy?

In case you face high blood pressure while you’re pregnant, you may always schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.

The healthcare providers could help to evaluate your blood pressure levels and tell the required treatment before pregnancy.

Sometimes if you are overweight, then your doctor might even suggest you lose weight before pregnancy.

More detailed and overall coverage here.

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