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Blood pressure is the amount of pressure of blood against the blood vessel walls every time the heart contracts. High blood pressure, or hypertension, can lead to health problems and if present during pregnancy, can cause complications for a mother and child. Chronic hypertension is high blood pressure that was present before pregnancy or that occurs in the first half of pregnancy. Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure that develops in the second half of pregnancy. Although gestational hypertension usually goes away after birth, it can increase the risk of developing hypertension in the future. Preeclampsia is a serious blood pressure disorder that occurs when hypertension develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with signs of damage to other organ systems, including the kidneys, liver, blood or brain.
High blood pressure during pregnancy poses various risks, including:
Hypertensive disorders effect 5 to 10 percent of pregnancies. About 70 percent are first-time pregnancies.Preeclampsia affects around 3 percent of pregnancies.
High blood pressure generally doesn’t have any noticeable signs or symptoms. Your blood pressure will need to be checked to determine if it is high. Blood pressure that is 140/90 mm Hg or greater, documented on two occasions, at least four hours apart, is abnormal.
Preeclampsia, however, does have some noticeable symptoms, including:
Some of the possible causes of high blood pressure during pregnancy include:
Your doctor can determine if you have high blood pressure during your pregnancy. You may be asked to measure your blood pressure at home. To track your blood pressure at home, blood pressure monitors are available for purchase from pharmacies and medical goods stores. Not all automated machines are validated for pregnancy, and you may be asked to bring in your machine to compare it with one at your doctor's office.
During pregnancy, your doctor may prescribe certain medications, including:
After birth, maintaining a healthy lifestyle will also help manage your high blood pressure. Some good healthy habits include:
Your doctor will determine if you have high blood pressure during your pregnancy. If you do, you should be monitored closely by your health care team throughout your pregnancy. Your weight and blood pressure should be checked at every visit, and you might need frequent blood and urine tests.
If necessary, your doctor may prescribe the safest medication at the most appropriate dose. Take the medication exactly as prescribed. Don't stop taking the medication or adjust the dose on your own.
If you are monitoring your blood pressure at home, notify your doctor immediately if you have repeated high blood pressure readings that are four hours apart, or show any symptoms of preeclampsia.