Pregnancy and High Blood Pressure

How Common Is It?

High blood pressure occurs in 6 to 8 percent of all pregnancies in the United States (approximately 70 percent of which are first-time pregnancies).
Although the proportion of pregnancies with gestational hypertension and eclampsia has remained about the same in the United States over the past decade, the rate of preeclampsia has increased by nearly one-third. This increase is due, in part, to a rise in the numbers of older mothers and of multiple births, where preeclampsia occurs more frequently. For example, in 1998, birth rates among women ages 30 to 44 and the number of births to women ages 45 and older were at the highest levels in three decades, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
With the advent of in vitro fertilization (IVF), between 1980 and 1998, rates of twin births increased about 50 percent overall and 1,000 percent among women ages 45 to 49; rates of triplet and other higher-order multiple births jumped more than 400 percent overall and 1,000 percent among women in their 40s.

How Can I Prevent It?

If you are thinking about having a baby and you have high blood pressure, talk first to your doctor or nurse. Taking steps to control your hypertension before and during pregnancy -- and getting regular prenatal care -- go a long way toward ensuring your well-being and your baby's health.
Prior to Pregnancy
Before becoming pregnant:
  • If you take blood pressure medication, ask your doctor whether you should change the amount you take or stop taking it during pregnancy. Experts currently recommend avoiding angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) during pregnancy; other blood pressure medicine may be okay for you to use. Do not, however, stop or change your blood pressure medicines unless your doctor tells you to do so.
  • Discuss with your doctor how hypertension might affect you and your baby during pregnancy and what you can do to prevent or lessen problems.
  • Be sure your blood pressure is under control. Lifestyle changes, such as limiting your salt intake, participating in regular physical activity, and losing weight (if you are overweight), can be helpful.
During Pregnancy
While you are pregnant:
  • Talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter medications you are taking or are thinking about taking
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco
  • Obtain regular prenatal medical care.
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