High blood pressure during pregnancy
About 8 in 100 women (8 percent) have some kind of high blood pressure during pregnancy. Some women have high blood pressure before they get pregnant, while others have high blood pressure for the first time during pregnancy.
Learn about pregnancy complications that high blood pressure can cause and what you can do to manage your high blood pressure or lower your risk for developing it.
What pregnancy complications can high blood pressure cause?
Preeclampsia: This is when a pregnant woman has high blood pressure and signs that some of her organs, like her kidneys and liver, may not be working properly. Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include having protein in the urine, changes in vision and severe headaches. Preeclampsia can be a serious medical condition. Even if you have mild preeclampsia, you need treatment to make sure it doesn’t get worse.
Premature birth: This is birth that happens too early – before 37 weeks of pregnancy. Even with treatment, a pregnant woman with severe high blood pressure or preeclampsia may need to give birth early to avoid serious health problems for her and her baby.
Low birthweight: This is when a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. High blood pressure can narrow blood vessels in the uterus (womb). Your baby may not get enough oxygen and nutrients, causing him or her to grow slowly.
Placental abruption: This is a serious condition in which the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus before birth. If this happens, your baby may not get enough oxygen and nutrients in the womb. You also may have serious bleeding from the vagina. The placenta grows in the uterus and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord.
C-section: If you have high blood pressure during pregnancy, you’re also more likely to have a cesarean birth. This is surgery in which your baby is born through a cut that your doctor makes in your belly and uterus.
What kinds of high blood pressure can affect pregnancy?
Two kinds of high blood pressure can happen during pregnancy:
- Chronic hypertension: This is high blood pressure that you have before you get pregnant or that develops before 20 weeks of pregnancy. It doesn’t go away once you give birth. About 1 in 4 women with chronic hypertension (25 percent) has preeclampsia during pregnancy. If you’re at high risk for preeclampsia, your provider may treat you with low-dose aspirin to prevent it.
- Gestational hypertension: This is high blood pressure that only pregnant women can get. It starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy and goes away after you give birth. It usually causes a small rise in blood pressure, but some women develop severe hypertension and may be at risk for more serious complications later in pregnancy, like preeclampsia. Healthy eating, staying active and getting to a healthy weight after pregnancy can help prevent high blood pressure in the future.
How can you manage high blood pressure during pregnancy?
- Go to all your prenatal care checkups, even if you’re feeling fine.
- If you need medicine to control your blood pressure, take it every day. Your provider can help you choose one that’s safe for you and your baby.
- Eat healthy foods. Don’t eat foods that are high in salt, like soup and canned foods.
- Stay active. Being active for 30 minutes each day can help you manage your weight, reduce stress and prevent problems like preeclampsia.
- Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use street drugs or abuse prescription drugs.
If you have high blood pressure, talk to your health care provider. Managing your blood pressure can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.