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Is High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy Common?

During pregnancy, high blood pressure occurs in 6 to 8 percent of women in the United States(approximately 70 percent of cases are in 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.
 

Can It Be Prevented?

If you are thinking about having a baby and you have high blood pressure, talk to your healthcare provider first. Taking steps to control your blood pressure during pregnancy and before you become pregnant will go a long way toward ensuring your well-being and your baby's health.
 
Prior to Becoming Pregnant
Before becoming pregnant:
 
  • Make sure that your blood pressure is under control. Lifestyle changes, such as participating in regular physical activity, limiting your salt intake, and losing weight (if you are overweight), can be helpful.
     
  • Ask your healthcare provider about how high blood pressure during pregnancy might affect you and your baby, and learn what you can do to prevent or minimize problems.
     
  • If you take medication for high blood pressure, 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.
     
While Pregnant
During your pregnancy:
 
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco
  • Obtain regular prenatal medical care
  • Talk to your doctor about any over-the-counter medications you are taking or are thinking about taking.
     
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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