High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy

Diagnosing High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy

High blood pressure is diagnosed after taking several readings to find the average blood pressure. To do this, your blood pressure needs to be taken two or more times, and each reading must be from a different day.
If the average of the two blood pressure numbers is greater than 140/90, a pregnant woman has high blood pressure -- just like women who are not pregnant. A woman is also considered to have high blood pressure if the systolic blood pressure increases more than 30 mmHg or the 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 too high.

Treatment Options

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

Effects of High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy

Although many women with high blood pressure during pregnancy have healthy babies without serious problems, the condition can be dangerous for both the mother and the fetus. These effects 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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