High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition in which the force of blood through arteries and veins is too great, causing pressure on blood vessels. The condition is serious and needs monitoring under the best of circumstances, but especially in at-risk populations and those women who are pregnant.
Pregnancy takes its toll on a body and can cause many unique changes during pregnancy and after. Having chronic high blood pressure during a pregnancy can cause serious concern for pregnant women. Sometimes it can cause severe health complications for both the pregnant woman and the developing fetus. A woman who has high blood pressure before getting pregnant may be at a higher risk of developing gestational hypertension, as well as a first-time mother, an overweight woman, a smoker, a drinker, a woman carrying multiples, a woman over 40 or a woman who became pregnant via assistive reproductive technology (like IVF.)
There are a few types of complications that can occur during pregnancy with high blood pressure. The most well-known is called preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure, has little to no symptoms and can cause preterm labor. Preeclampsia can cause blood clotting problems, lung problems, seizures, and pose a danger to a growing fetus. Preeclampsia affects blood flow to the placenta, which may be the cause of small or preterm fetuses at birth. Because high blood pressure often carries silent symptoms, it’s important for expectant women to attend regular prenatal appointments to check for high blood pressure readings, protein found in the urine, unusual swelling in the hands and feet, and headache or blurred vision. If blood pressure readings are consistently high after 20 weeks of pregnancy, most physicians will diagnose gestational hypertension, which can eventually progress into preeclampsia. Medications can help control blood pressure and regulate the body to some degree, but the only cure for gestational hypertension or preeclampsia is delivering the fetus.
High blood pressure can affect a pregnancy by causing adverse effects on both mother and fetus. Chronic hypertension while pregnant may lead to impairment of the fetus’ growth, a higher risk of the placenta separating from the uterus, problems breathing during labor, and other side effects.
Physicians will place patients on antihypertension medication if necessary, but there are a few ways to naturally attempt to lower blood pressure should you be diagnosed with gestational hypertension:
– Purchase an at-home blood pressure monitors from a pharmacy or online and track blood pressure daily at the same time in the same position. This will give your doctor a good idea of how blood pressure fluctuates for you individually to determine which medication to prescribe.
– Eat less sodium in your diet, remain active as allowed, and include foods in your diet that naturally lower blood pressure, like oatmeal, leafy greens, berries, nuts and seeds.
With careful screening and regular visits to your physician, a woman with high blood pressure may be able to avoid developing preeclampsia during her pregnancy. Make sure to stay in frequent contact with your physicians regarding your care if you develop gestational hypertension.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article, including text and images, are for informational purposes only and do not constitute a medical service. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.