Blood Pressure during Pregnancy

Blood Pressure during PregnancyYour blood pressure will be checked at each of your prenatal check-ups and often while you’re in the hospital. That’s because your blood pressure during pregnancy is an important vital sign that gives your medical team clues about your health and that of your baby. A normal blood pressure during pregnancy, within a certain range, can help prevent some serious side-effects for both of you.

Abnormal and Normal Blood Pressure during Pregnancy

Normal blood pressure during pregnancy (and for non-pregnant women) is around 120/80 mm Hg. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, begins at 140/90 mm Hg. It is common for blood pressure to drop slightly during the early months of pregnancy because the rise in hormones can dilate blood vessels.

Types of High Blood Pressure during Pregnancy

Chronic hypertension is a pre-existing condition, meaning that a woman had high blood pressure prior to becoming pregnant. Women who develop high blood pressure during pregnancy have gestational hypertension and this usually subsides after childbirth.

Chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia occurs when a woman has pre-existing high blood pressure that worsens during pregnancy and develops into preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is high blood pressure that develops after 20 weeks and is combined with other symptoms indicating organ systems are damaged including the kidneys, liver or brain. Signs of preeclampsia include: protein in urine, swelling of hands and feet and persistent headaches.

Causes of High Blood Pressure during Pregnancy

Hypertension is a growing health condition, including during pregnancy. Beyond women who have pre-existing conditions, high blood pressure during pregnancy may occur if a woman is overweight prior to pregnancy, is carrying multiples, has a family history of hypertension or is over the age of 40. Women in their first pregnancies are more likely to have high blood pressure than women in subsequent pregnancies.

Risks of High Blood Pressure during Pregnancy

High blood pressure isn’t always dangerous during pregnancy but should be monitored. Doctors may want women with high blood pressure to check their own levels daily and report back if blood pressure elevates.

Moms-to-be who experience hypertension are at increased risk of preterm birth and low birth weight, which can cause health and developmental problems for babies. Placental abruption – when the placenta detaches from the uterus – is possible with hypertension during pregnancy as well as a cesarean delivery.

How to Reduce Risk of High Blood Pressure during Pregnancy

Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a wholesome diet and not smoking or drinking are ways women can reduce risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy. Daily exercise and working with a nutritionist can be great steps to ensure normal blood pressure levels too. Also, developing coping techniques for stress can significantly reduce risk of pregnancy complications due to hypertension.

Sources: Mayo Clinic and Healthline