Pregnancy Complications

High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

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High blood pressure, or hypertension, can become a problem among many pregnant women. However, it does not have to be a serious one. Even if the problem does develop, or you already have pre-existing high blood pressure, your pregnancy can be fine with regular checkups and pre-natal care. Around one in ten women has problems with hypertension during pregnancy and around one in twenty has pre-existing high blood pressure. Neither of these may have any effect on your baby however, they just need to be regularly monitored and tested.

Regular checkups with the doctor will check your blood pressure as well as a number of other things. Several of these tests go towards ensuring that you are not developing high blood pressure and if you are, how serious the situation is and if you require treatment. If you are suffering from hypertension during pregnancy it is best to follow the doctor's advice and listen to health carers' advice as well as talking to the people around you who are there to help.

What causes high blood pressure during pregnancy?

Blood pressure is the amount of force that blood is exerting against artery walls; this is considered to be high if it is measured at over 140 mm HG systolic. A number of pregnant women develop hypertension after or around the twentieth week of their pregnancy. It is not entirely clear why this happens although studies have suggested that it may be due to the placenta, the substance that attaches the baby to the womb. The problems may originate from the blood vessels in the placenta which carry the nutrients to the baby, which may then translate to the body and result in the condition.

The regular checkups with the doctor will test for hypertension. There are various things to look out for if you think there may be something wrong. You know your baby and your body best, so if something feels wrong such as if you are not well or if the baby is not moving around as much as normal then it may be worth going to the doctor and reporting your symptoms. Blurred vision, severe headaches and vomiting in later stages of the pregnancy are also key signs that you may be having problems with high blood pressure. Pain in your upper abdomen and sudden puffiness in hands, feet or face are also warning signs to look out for and to be aware of.

Does high blood pressure endanger the baby?

In a small number of cases high blood pressure during pregnancy can have very serious effects, however the symptoms can generally be treated or regulated to full effect. In a large number of cases mild high blood pressure has very little to no effect on the pregnancy and often goes away by itself, (although it will need to be monitored). Blood pressure and urine are regularly tested for symptoms of high blood pressure; the latter test because a high count of protein in the urine is symptomatic of the condition.

High blood pressure can, in rare cases, lead to pre-eclampsia. The condition is directly related to hypertension and likewise develops around the twentieth week of the pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia can lead to an increase in the risks for the baby and the mother. The mother is more likely to develop blood clots, kidney problems and there is an increased chance of poor growth in the baby as well as premature births and still births. When the condition leads to seizures the condition is called eclampsia. In many cases the only solution to pre-eclampsia is to deliver the baby. If the baby is near to term, delivery is not a problem, but this can be an issue if the baby is still fairly early on in its growth.

Will pre-existing high blood pressure harm the baby?

Women with pre-existing high blood pressure are perfectly able to have a normal pregnancy but the increased risk to both the baby and the mother does mean that they should be closely monitored for the entire course of the pregnancy. Also, if you are being treated for high blood pressure and intend to become pregnant it would be advisable to consult the doctor about your medication. Do not come off the medication without medical advice but you may be advised to change medication to something that is not considered to be harmful to the foetus.

During pregnancy, pre-existing high blood pressure can be discovered in the regular GP checkups. Women who exhibit symptoms before the twenty-week mark probably had pre-existing hypertension. Again, this may not be an issue, especially if it was undetectable before, however, pre-existing hypertension leads to an increased risk of developing pre-eclampsia and it is important to not only get regular checkups and medical advice but also to regulate your lifestyle to ensure that the risks are reduced. Avoiding tobacco and alcohol is key, also it is worth losing weight if you are overweight. It may be ideal to participate in regular exercise and make sure that you limit the salt in your diet.

Are there treatments available?

While the only solution to pre-eclampsia is to give birth, there are various things you can do to ensure your own and the babies health if you have high blood pressure during pregnancy. It is always important to maintain a regular, healthy lifestyle and avoid both alcohol and tobacco during pregnancy. As always, regular exercise is very important, not just for those with pre-existing high blood pressure but for anyone. It doesn't need to be high impact, but regular exercise, even walking places or going for a swim will ensure that your body maintains its health levels. It is also important to regulate your diet and not necessarily use this as a time to splurge and indulge in cravings. Healthy, regular meals, a range of nutrients and avoiding too much salt will go a long way to helping the baby.

If you do develop high blood pressure or already have a pre-existing problem then the doctor will be sure to monitor yours and the baby's development very closely. You should be receiving very close attention from health carers and also receive regular blood pressure tests. There is various advice and lifestyle suggestions that health carers will make to limit the risk and it is best to follow all of this. If pre-eclampsia does develop then the health carers are very experienced in the issue and will know how to proceed to the fullest and safest effect.

Most women who did not have pre-existing problems go back to their usual blood pressure within six weeks of the birth and regular post natal checkups will test this as well as various other things. High blood pressure does not tend to be a lasting problem for women after they give birth although these issues do sometimes recur later in life. Generally speaking, hypertension can have no effect on a pregnancy unless it develops into something more serious. As long as you go for regular checkups, follow the doctor's advice and take care of yourself and the baby you can have an entirely normal birth.

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