High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

How Is It Diagnosed?

Diagnosing high blood pressure during pregnancy requires taking several readings to determine the average blood pressure. To do this, your blood pressure needs to be taken two or more times, and each reading must be on a different day.
If the average of the two blood pressure numbers is greater than 140/90, then a pregnant woman has high blood pressure -- just as with women who are not pregnant. A woman is also considered to have high blood pressure during pregnancy if her systolic blood pressure increases more than 30 mmHg or her diastolic blood pressure increases more than 15 mmHg.
A single reading that is more than 140/90 doesn't necessarily mean that you have high blood pressure, but your doctor will probably want to monitor it over time to see if it stays there. You can also have high blood pressure if the average of only one of the numbers (systolic or diastolic) is consistently too high.

Treating High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

The treatment recommended for high blood pressure during pregnancy will depend on a number of factors, such as:
  • Type of high blood pressure
  • The woman's age
  • At what week in pregnancy the high blood pressure is diagnosed
  • Other medical conditions.
Possible treatment options may include:
  • Bed rest
  • Observation
  • No-salt-added diet
  • Medications
  • More frequent prenatal visits
  • Early delivery (after 36 weeks).

Effects on the Pregnancy

Although many women who experience high blood pressure during pregnancy have healthy babies without serious problems, hypertension can be dangerous for both the mother and the fetus. Effects can range from mild to severe.
Women with preexisting or chronic high blood pressure are more likely to have certain complications during pregnancy than those with normal blood pressure. High blood pressure can harm the mother's kidneys and other organs, and it can cause low birth weight and early delivery. In the most serious cases, the mother develops preeclampsia (also known as pregnancy-induced hypertension, toxemia of pregnancy, or acute hypertensive disease of pregnancy), which can threaten the lives of both the mother and the fetus.
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