Pregnancy and High Blood Pressure

How Is It Diagnosed?

Diagnosing high blood pressure involves taking several readings to find the average blood pressure. Also, each reading must be from 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 like women who are not pregnant. A woman is also considered to have high blood pressure during pregnancy if the systolic blood pressure increases more than 30 mmHg or the diastolic blood pressure increases more than 15 mmHg.
A single reading of more than 140/90 doesn't necessarily mean that you have high blood pressure, but your doctor will probably want to monitor it over a period of 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 for High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy

The recommended treatment options depend on numerous factors, such as:
  • The 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).

What Are the Effects?

Although many women with high blood pressure in 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 pre-existing 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 toxemia of pregnancy, pregnancy-induced hypertension, or acute hypertensive disease of pregnancy), which can threaten the lives of both the fetus and the mother.
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