Pregnancy Induced Hypertension PregnancyMama Explains

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Pregnancy induced hypertension refers to a state of high blood pressure (above 140/90 mmHg) in a previously normal woman after 20 weeks of gestation.

During pregnancy hormonal changes may lead to some health issues that may be dangerous for the growth and development of the baby and may even be life- threatening for both the child and its mother. One of such health issues is gestational hypertension or pregnancy-induced hypertension in simple term.

What causes pregnancy induced hypertension?

Pregnancy induced hypertension is primarily a result of hormonal imbalance caused by pregnancy. Due to parallel circulation (maternal circulation as well as fetal circulation) blood pressure normally falls in most expecting mothers.

However during mid second trimester or after 20 weeks, the pregnancy hormones may lead to narrowing of blood vessels leading to a blood pressure of more than 140 mmHg systolic (when the heart pumps blood to peripheral organs) and 90 mmHg diastolic (when heart receives the blood from entire body).

In order to establish a diagnosis of pregnancy induced hypertension, two or more readings of high blood pressure are required at separate intervals.

What can increase my risk of developing pregnancy induced hypertension?

Although, virtually any expecting mom can develop hypertension during pregnancy but there may be elevated risks if:

  • You are becoming pregnant at the extremes of reproductive age. That is, below 18 years or above 35 years.
  • If your body mass index was more than 25 kg/m2 before becoming pregnant (you can calculate your own body mass index by dividing weight in kg by height [in meters])
  • Although unclear, it has been observed that African American women are more prone to develop hypertension in pregnancy as compared to other women. So, genetic factor or history presumably plays a role.
  • If you have positive family history of either gestational hypertension or chronic hypertension.
  • If you have a personal medical history of gestational hypertension in previous pregnancies.
  • Co-existence of other medical or health problems like diabetes and cardiac issues.
  • Your risk of developing pregnancy induced hypertension increases proportionately with multiple gestation or pregnancy with twins or triplets. This is due to the fact that with multiple gestations your placenta releases or produces more hormones that affect the equilibrium state of blood vessels thus giving rise to gestational hypertension.

How hypertension in pregnancy affects baby’s health and well-being?

Complications as a result of pregnancy hypertension depend on its severity and the trimester in which it occurs.

If you develop severe hypertension early in pregnancy (by 22nd week of gestation) your baby is more likely to develop complications like growth restriction, low birth weight, still birth and fetal distress.

Most babies born to hypertensive mothers are less likely to gain normal weight in the first year of life and also have delayed developmental milestones.

How pregnancy induced hypertension affects the pregnant woman’s well-being?

If a pregnant mom develops very high blood pressure during late trimester of pregnancy, her risk of giving birth via Cesarean section increases to prevent maternal as well as fetal complications. Fetal distress or non-reactive fetal bio-physical profile testing are the most common indicators of cesarean delivery option for a hypertensive expecting mom.

If hypertension in pregnancy isn’t properly controlled, it usually degenerates into pre-eclampsia (a state of severe high blood pressure followed by systemic damage to different organs like kidney and liver).

Pre-eclampsia is suspected in any women who has developed swelling of face, ankles or entire body due to constant loss of proteins into her urine (as a result of kidneys’ damage).

If prompt treatment isn’t undertaken, pre-eclampsia deteriorates into eclampsia, which has all the features of pre-eclampsia as well as episodes of seizures. Seizure activity is an indication to perform Cesarean delivery immediately especially if the baby has crossed 34 weeks of pregnancy.

How can I manage pregnancy induced hypertension?

  • You have to manage your blood pressure under optimal range by taking regular pregnancy-friendly anti-hypertensive medications, after consulting your primary care physicians.
  • Keep up with your prenatal check –ups and monitor your blood pressure as may be directed.
  • Keep a tab of your baby movements and undergo all fetal monitoring tests like bio-physical profile and stress testing.
  • Consume low fat, salt and caffeine in your diet throughout pregnancy to reduce hindrance of calcium absorption by your body. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits as well.
  • Don’t ignore the benefit of relaxation exercises that soothes your spine to the soul. Such relaxations have been reported to help some expecting moms keep blood pressure moderate.

What will happen about the hypertension condition after delivery?

Majority of the expecting moms who developed hypertension in pregnancy returns to basal blood pressure (pre-pregnancy blood pressure) within a few weeks after delivery. Your care-giver will continuously monitor you at the hospital or out-patient section to determine your blood pressure status.

Yes, majority of the women return to their pre-pregnancy blood pressure values without any treatment; however one-third of the women still present with high blood pressure values even 3 months after childbirth.

In such a case, healthcare providers treat these women as chronic hypertensive patients as it clearly indicates that you had silent chronic hypertension before becoming pregnant that came to notice during your prenatal testing.

With good antenatal and medical care, pregnancy induced hypertension and even postpartum can be monitored and managed for you to have a safe pregnancy and healthy baby.

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