Carrying a baby in the womb and giving birth is a beautiful feeling that women get to experience. During pregnancy, it is quite natural that the blood pressure of women may fluctuate.
The pressure at which blood is pumped throughout the body is known as blood pressure. Usually, blood pressure is measured in terms of the maximum pressure over the minimum pressure. In an adult, the normal resting blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg (millimetres of Mercury) approximately.
Pregnancy and Blood Pressure
When a woman conceives, there are changes in her body due to hormonal influence. Due to this, the blood pressure of the pregnant woman fluctuates. During the first and second trimester of pregnancy, blood pressure may be lower than normal. And in some cases, blood pressure becomes higher than normal. And as time progresses, after delivery, blood pressure may return to normal.
So, it is very necessary that special attention should be given if you are suffering from high or low blood pressure during pregnancy.
Types of High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
- Gestational Hypertension: When a pregnant woman develops hypertension after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and no other organs are affected, it is referred to as gestational hypertension.
- Chronic Hypertension: When a woman has blood pressure before being pregnant or before the 20th week of pregnancy, then it is known as chronic hypertension (Pre-existing Hypertension).
- Preeclampsia: Sometimes, gestational hypertension or chronic hypertension can lead to preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a serious medical condition during pregnancy which is also known as toxaemia. It occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy which is characterized by high blood pressure along with signs of other organ system damage. Preeclampsia when left untreated may cause severe complications including death of the foetus.
Problems Caused Due to High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure during pregnancy, causes different types of health problems, including :
- Fetal Growth Restriction: High blood pressure may result in slow growth of the baby, leading to low birth weight.
- Premature Delivery: In order to prevent further complications due to high blood pressure, premature delivery may be necessitated.
- Separation of Placenta: Due to preeclampsia, the placenta may get separated from the uterus before the baby is born. And when the placenta prematurely separates from the uterus heavy bleeding may occur which may be seen coming through the vagina. In some cases, separation of the placenta from the uterine wall may be life threatening for both the mother and the baby.
- Eclampsia : Preeclampsia can lead to mother having seizures (fits / convulsions) that is called Eclampsia. This is life threatening for both the mother and the baby.
- Multi-Organ Damage: Preeclampsia can affect all the organs of the mother – leading to multi-organ damage. Sometimes, any one organ like the kidney, liver or blood cell may be affected, and this may lead to premature delivery. The mother is also at risk of developing HELLP Syndrome (Hemolysis, Elevated Liver Enzymes, Low platelets).
What are the Symptoms of Preeclampsia
Preeclampsia, many times, may occur without any warning symptoms. It may be detected by your doctor during routine check-ups.
The symptoms of severe preeclampsia include:
- Severe headache that doesn’t go away with simple painkillers
- Problems with vision, such as blurring or flashing before the eyes
- Severe pain just below the ribs
- Heartburn that doesn’t go away with antacids
- Rapidly increasing swelling of the face, hands or feet
- Feeling very unwell.
Who is Likely to Get Preeclampsia? How to Prevent High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy:
Preeclampsia can occur in any pregnancy but you are at higher risk if:
- Your blood pressure was high before you became pregnant
- Your blood pressure was high in a previous pregnancy
- You have a medical problem such as kidney problems or diabetes or a condition that affects the immune system, such as lupus.
If any of these apply to you, you should be advised to take low-dose aspirin (75 mg) once a day in pregnancy, to reduce your risk.
The importance of other factors is less clear-cut, but you are more likely to develop pre-eclampsia if more than one of the following applies:
- This is your first pregnancy
- You are aged 40 or over
- Your last pregnancy was more than 10 years ago
- You are very overweight – a BMI (body mass index) of 35 or more
- Your mother or sister had preeclampsia during pregnancy
- You are carrying more than one baby.
If you have more than one of these risk factors, you may also be advised to take low-dose aspirin once a day in pregnancy.
Treatment for High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
If you are pregnant and suffering from high blood pressure, it is very necessary to seek your doctor’s advice. Normally, a doctor may suggest the following in order to make your blood pressure normal and keep you and your baby safe.
- Advise admission
- Medications to lower high blood pressure
- Offer frequent tests of your blood and urine
- Monitor the health of the baby
So, it becomes very necessary to have regular check-ups during the gestation period. It will help you to know your health status and that of your baby. And if you are suffering from high blood pressure, your doctor will recommend certain things that you need to do.