Hypertension during pregnancy is a commonly occurring phenomenon among women. It is characterized by development of new arterial hypertension in pregnant women after the 20th week of gestation. It is a major cause of maternal, fetal and neonatal morbidity in both developing and developed countries. Maintaining good health during pregnancy involves more than just looking after your weight and taking vitamins, it also includes managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels to keep hypertension in check.
Hypertension is detected when blood pressure measures over Â 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), and it can greatly increase the risk of heart disease and heart failure, as well asÂ strokeÂ and kidney problems.
Hypertension during pregnancy can be broadly classified into 3 major categories:
- Pre-eclampsia: This is the most serious form of hypertension during pregnancy. It typically occurs after 20 weeks. The only way to control this condition is to deliver the fetus, which can lead to complications, including death of the mother and/or child.
- Gestational hypertension: This occurs only during pregnancy and usually isn’t a problem for the mother after delivery. Gestational hypertension can appear near the end of a pregnancy.
- Chronic hypertension: This form of hypertension develops before pregnancy or in the early stages of pregnancy (before 20 weeks).
Who are more susceptible to develop hypertension?
- Women with high blood pressure before becoming pregnant.
- Women who developed high blood pressure during a previous pregnancy, especially if these conditions occurred early in the pregnancy.
- Women who are obese prior to pregnancy.
- Pregnant women under the age of 20 or over the age of 40.
- Women who are pregnant with more than one baby.
- Women with a history of or currently suffering from diabetes, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or scleroderma.
Symptoms of Hypertension during pregnancy
- Severe Headache
- Visual problems: blurred vision or flashes before your eyes
- Severe epigastric pain
- Sudden swelling of the face, hands or feet
- Shoulder, neck and other upper body pain
- Know your blood pressure level before getting pregnant â€“ Make an appointment for a checkup with your primary care doctor or ob-gyn and make a note of your blood pressure.
- Reduce salt intake â€“ High intake of salt can raise blood pressure. Pregnant women should keep their salt intake limited to 1 teaspoon per day at the most and not exceeding this under any circumstance.
- Exercise regularly â€“ Get up and get moving before you conceive. Already pregnant women should consult their doctor about a regular exercise program. Also, take care of the fact that you donâ€™t lead a sedentary lifestyle. This can increase the risk of hypertension during pregnancy.
- Pay attention to medication â€“ Medicines that can raise blood pressure levels should be avoided. Think twice about using any medication unless your doctor approves. Consult your doctor to make sure that you are taking medication that will be safe to continue during pregnancy.
- Get regular prenatal checkups for blood pressure check â€“ If your blood pressure starts to rise during pregnancy, make sure you catch it early. Consider buying a home blood pressure monitor to check your blood pressure more frequently.
- Regular urine analysis to monitor the level of protein in urine â€“ Periodic urine analysis procedures should be carried out to keep a check on the protein level in urine. This will help in identifying the dangers of preeclampsia.
- Edema (Swelling) â€“ Many women develop edema (swelling) on their feet and ankles during pregnancy. If you notice swelling of your hands and face or if the edema is in your calves, you should call your doctor.
- Notice the babyâ€™s movements – It is extremely important to pay attention to the babyâ€™s movements, which occurs several times per hour in the third trimester of pregnancy. If a decrease in these movements is noticed, your doctor should be informed immediately.
If, despite medications, blood pressure rises to a level putting you at risk for a stroke or other organ complications, your doctor might recommend that your baby be delivered early. If you have developed superimposed preeclampsia that is causing damage to organs in your body, your doctor may recommend early delivery. Early delivery is associated with prematurity. If an early delivery is planned, your body may not be ready to deliver the baby vaginally, so there is a greater chance that you might need a cesarean section.
Hypertension may also affect the development of the placenta, which is important for the nourishment and growth of the fetus. Thus, some babies may be affected by low amniotic fluid levels and/or intrauterine growth restriction
Complications during pregnancy especially hypertension can cause adverse effects on both the mother and childâ€™s health. Exercising and being physically active is of paramount importance towards preventing and greatly reducing the risk of hypertension during the most precious 9 months of your life. Please take care of yourself!