How does high blood pressure affect my pregnancy, and why is it important?
When you have high blood pressure (hypertension), the force of blood against your artery walls is stronger than normal. If you have high blood pressure during a pregnancy, you must have more frequent checkups.
There are three different kinds of hypertension which can be present during pregnancy, including:
- Pre-existing hypertension-in which the mother had the hypertension before her pregnancy, and it is carefully monitored and controlled through her pregnancy, usually with medication and a healthy diet.
- Pregnancy induced hypertension-About 10 percent of all women will see their blood pressure rise to higher than normal levels during the second or third trimester of their pregnancies. If the elevation is mild, this is usually not a reason for concern. However, you will need to be monitored closely to ensure more serious complications don't develop. The hypertension usually disappears shortly after the baby's birth.
- Pre-eclampsia-Pre-eclampsia occurs when your blood pressure is severely high-a condition which can have serious consequences for both the mother and the fetus. Severe high blood pressure limits the blood oxygen supply to your fetus, limiting the unborn child's growth, and possibly causing early separation of the placenta from the wall of your uterus (a condition called placenta abruptio.) Placenta abruptio can cause premature delivery, or at worst, a stillbirth. However, if the condition is caught quickly, medication can bring the hypertension into more manageable levels, and help assure a healthier outcome for mother and baby.
What are the signs that my high blood pressure might be turning into pre-eclampsia?
- Blurred vision or other vision problems.
- Frequent headaches that are becoming worse or a persistent headache that does not respond to nonprescription pain medicine.
- Pain or tenderness in your abdomen, especially in the upper right section.
- Shoulder, neck, and other upper body pain (this pain originates in the liver).
- Weight gain of 2 lb(0.91 kg) or more over a 24-hour period.
If you are pregnant and have any of these symptoms, call our offices immediately.
What kind of treatment is there for pre-eclampsia?
We will prescribe blood-pressure-lowering medications that are safe to take during pregnancy. Like all women with hypertension in pregnancy, you will be advised to eat a strictly controlled healthy diet limiting intake of salt.
You will also be monitored very closely to determine that the baby is not experiencing any kind of fetal distress, which could be evidenced by a slowing of the baby's heartbeat, a significant decrease in the amount of amniotic fluid, cramping or early labor. If any of these symptoms occur, your doctor may advise emergency Caesarean delivery. Because pre-eclampsia usually develops very late in pregnancy, babies who are born prematurely under these circumstances, and who have not experienced significant nutrient or oxygen loss, have a better than average chance of developing into thriving, happy infants.