High blood pressure pregnancy

What is it?

If your blood pressure has constantly been going up since the end of the second trimester of pregnancy, you may have gestational hypertension. It is essential that you monitor your blood pressure and the baby’s as well, as this condition may lead to some complications.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms of gestational hypertension are:

  • a sudden decrease in your urine flow
  • abdominal pain
  • swollen ankles and face
  • headache
  • vomiting
  • general fatigue
  • in some cases, pre-eclampsia.

How is it diagnosed?

To diagnose gestational hypertension, your doctor will monitor your blood pressure reading: your systolic pressure should never be higher than the 140/90 to 149/99mmHg range.

What causes it?

It is not clear yet what causes this condition. However, it has been demonstrated that women 35 or older who have been pregnant before, as well as those who have a family history of gestational hypertension, have a higher risk of developing it.

A combination of factors, such as a weakened immune system, placental abnormalities and a diet low in calcium, zinc and proteins can also lead to developing gestational hypertension.

How can it be prevented?

You should make sure to maintain a healthy weight before the pregnancy. Being obese or overweight is a risk factor, as during the nine months of pregnancy your weight will inevitably increase. That will lead to a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.

A healthy weight also depends on eating a healthy diet, avoiding eating too much, making sure you get all the nutrients you need and staying hydrated by drinking two litres of water per day. You must absolutely avoid smoking and drinking alcohol, as those will increase your risk of getting gestational hypertension as much as ten times.

Finally, in case your clinical situation is not clear, you should monitor your blood pressure monthly, increasing the frequency of the readings during the last trimester of pregnancy.

How is it treated?

Hypertension isn’t usually a major problem during pregnancy. The doctor will only induce labour at the 40th week in the most critical cases.

Treatment consists in taking some medications; however, you should carefully assess any potential side effects on the baby (neonatal mortality and postnatal developmental toxicity). Another common treatment is bed rest, to avoid increasing your blood pressure, especially in the placenta and uterine area.

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