Signs & Symptoms of High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy

According to the National Heart Blood and Lung Institute, high blood pressure problems occur in approximately 8 percent of all pregnancies in the United States. Whether you had this health condition before you conceived or you developed it during pregnancy, knowing the signs and symptoms, treatment, risks and possible complications of high blood pressure during pregnancy will improve your understanding of this potentially life-threatening pregnancy disorder.

  1. The Facts

    • Blood pressure that remains high for extended periods of time is called hypertension. Hypertension occurs when the muscle layer tightens in certain arteries, making it harder for blood to pump through your body. Your high blood pressure decreases the amount of blood flow through the placenta, which may affect the amount of nutrients and oxygen that your baby receives. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that repeated blood pressure readings greater than 120/80 may be an indication that you have high blood pressure problems.

    Signs and Symptoms

    • Unfortunately, high blood pressure during pregnancy does not usually reveal itself with a set of distinct signs and symptoms. According to the March of Dimes, you may experience warning signs of high blood pressure, such as abnormally severe headaches, vision problems (blurriness, heightened light sensitivity) or pain in your upper right abdomen, but these often don't occur until your high blood pressure has reached a more advanced stage. Your obstetrician or midwife will have your blood pressure measured and urine checked for protein at every prenatal visit in an effort to more quickly identify cases of high blood pressure during pregnancy.


    • Signs and symptoms of high blood pressure during pregnancy indicate the possible presence of three different types of hypertension. Occurring before you conceive, chronic hypertension continues throughout the duration of your pregnancy and after your baby's birth. Gestational hypertension typically develops at some point during the second half of your pregnancy, leaving shortly after your baby's birth. Preeclampsia, high blood pressure accompanied by the presence of protein in your urine, usually occurs after your 20th week of pregnancy and leaves after your baby is born.


    • Signs and symptoms of high blood pressure can increase the chances of health risks for both you and your unborn baby, including low birth weight (birth weight of less than 5 lbs., 8 oz.), premature delivery (birth of your baby before week 37 of pregnancy), and placental abruption. Placental abruption is a pregnancy complication that occurs when the placenta separates from the uterine wall before birth, which may lead to excessive bleeding or shock. Although health risks are possible with all forms of hypertension, the March of Dimes states that they are most likely to occur if you have both chronic high blood pressure and preeclampsia.


    • Treatment for the signs and symptoms of high blood pressure during pregnancy varies depending upon the type of high blood pressure you have. Regular prenatal visits play a significant role in helping your obstetrician assess and manage your high blood pressure symptoms. Depending upon the severity of your symptoms, he may suggest bed rest or prescribe blood pressure medication that is safe to use during pregnancy. In certain cases of preeclampsia, your baby may need to be delivered early by induction or cesarean birth.

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