High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is present when your blood pressure is greater than or equal to 140/90 mm Hg. Hypertension can especially become a serious concern if you’re pregnant, and it requires close monitoring.
What Causes High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy?
Certain risk factors can contribute to the development of hypertension during pregnancy such as:
- Unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as being overweight or obese, or having a sedentary lifestyle
- First pregnancy is more likely to have high blood pressure
- Multiple pregnancies can make it more likely for hypertension to develop since the mother’s body is working harder to sustain more than one baby
- Pregnant women over the age of 35
What Are the Different Types of High Blood Pressure?
There are three types of pregnancy-related high blood pressure conditions:
Gestational hypertension is a condition of high blood pressure that appears after 20 weeks of pregnancy. This type of hypertension typically goes away after delivery. When gestational hypertension develops before 30 weeks, there is a higher potential to develop preeclampsia.
High blood pressure that was present before pregnancy or develops before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Chronic Hypertension with Superimposed Preeclampsia
Chronic hypertension before pregnancy that worsens during pregnancy that leads to protein in the urine or other blood pressure related complications.
Why is High Blood Pressure a Problem During Pregnancy?
Pregnancy-related high blood pressure poses the following risks:
Decreased Blood Flow to the Placenta
Restricted blood flow to the placenta restricts oxygen and nutrients to the baby. Complications from this include slow growth (also known as intrauterine growth restriction), premature birth, or low birth weight.
Preeclampsia increases the risk of placental abruption where the placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus prior to delivery. In serious cases, heavy bleeding can result.
Injury to Other Organs
Hypertension can cause injury to the heart, brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, and other major organs, that can become life-threatening in certain cases.
Future Cardiovascular Disease
Preeclampsia may increase the risk of future cardiovascular disease for the mother.
How Can You Reduce the Risk of High Blood Pressure?
It’s important to take extra precautions to avoid the risks of pregnancy-related high blood pressure:
- Go to all your prenatal appointments
- Take your blood pressure medication as your doctor recommends
- Stay active
- Eat a healthy diet
- Talk to your doctor before taking any over-the-counter medications