High blood pressure in pregnancy is one of the most delicate pregnancy complications that directly affect the growing baby’s health and well-being.
A blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or above, at more than 2 occasions is referred to as high blood pressure. The reading of 140 is called systolic – taken when the heart pumps blood to the peripheral organs while the bottom reading of 90 mmHg is called diastolic - obtained when the heart receives and gets filled with blood.
Chronic hypertension is often used to describe a pre-existing state of high blood pressure in a pregnant woman before the time she got pregnant or a condition of diagnosed hypertension within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Although high blood pressure in pregnancy is associated with a number of complications in the developing baby, adequate blood pressure control often avert most possible complications.
High blood pressure increases the risk of a number of fetal complications by interfering with blood supply to the baby via placenta, given rise to increased resistance in blood flow to the baby thus resulting in lower than required blood supply.
Insufficient blood supply implies the growing baby will receive less nutrients and oxygen with possible consequences such as:
However, all these complications are seen in women who have poorly controlled high blood pressure in pregnancy.
If you’re a confirmed patient of high blood pressure, your healthcare provider may change your regimen a bit to avoid drug-induced complications in your baby.
The key to avoid any complication during pregnancy is to stick to your therapy and see your doctor for regular medical and antenatal check-ups.
Keep up with all the tests and investigations your doctor may advise from time to time especially urine tests, EKG and eye examination.
Most importantly, blood pressure testing is crucial as most pregnant women develop low blood pressure due to changes in the amount and activity of different pregnancy hormones. If your blood pressure is low during pregnancy, your doctor may taper-off or temporarily stop your anti-hypertensive therapy.
Don’t stop any medication on your own and don’t exercise during pregnancy without supervision if you suffer high blood pressure in pregnancy.
Any decision on safe or unsafe medication or lifestyle must be in strict consultation with your doctor. Once again, keep up with all your antenatal check-ups and discuss with your physician regarding any warning signs you may notice.
For all hypertensive expecting moms, frequent antenatal check-ups are very important in preventing maternal or fetal complication as well as monitoring the growth and development of your baby.
You may have to undergo repeated ultrasound examination in second and third trimesters of pregnancy followed by fetal stress and non-stress testing including bio-physical profile testing in late third trimester in order to ascertain your baby is under no stress or distress.
Moreover, you’ll also have to modify your lifestyle as well. Smoking and alcohol consumptions are strictly prohibited in expecting moms with the illness of high blood pressure in pregnancy.
Generally, it’s advised you consume low salt in your diet throughout pregnancy and ideally maintain a hypertensive pregnancy diet plan in consultation with a registered dietitian.
Research studies have shown that intake of calcium supplements or foods may help to control blood pressure, alleviate hypertension and pre-eclampsia. But high salt and caffeine consumption interferes with the absorption of calcium by your body, so keep their consumption low.
Here are the warning signs you must beware. Report immediately to your healthcare provider if:
Although pregnancy high blood pressure is associated with a number of complications, but if proper antenatal care is provisioned, the risk of complications may decline significantly and many expecting moms who suffer high blood pressure in pregnancy will end up having uneventful pregnancy.