High blood pressure during pregnancy can harm you and your baby. Don't panic; high blood pressure is preventable and treatable.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure (force) of the blood against the walls of the blood vessel (arteries) each time the heart contracts (squeezes) to pump blood through your body. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80.  If the pressure in your arteries stays consistently high, you have high blood pressure (also called hypertension).

Blood pressure during pregnancy

Blood pressure usually drops in the first and second trimester and returns to normal by the end of the pregnancy.

However, some women experience high blood pressure during pregnancy. They may have:

  • Chronic high blood pressure - present before pregnancy or occurs in the first half of pregnancy (before 20 weeks).
  • Gestational hypertension - starts in the second or third trimester.

Why is high blood pressure a concern during pregnancy?

High blood pressure during pregnancy can cause

  • Gestational diabetes — Diabetes that occurs for the first time during pregnancy
  • Preeclampsia —This is more likely to occur in women with chronic high blood pressure than in women with normal blood pressure.
  • Preterm delivery (when a baby is born before completion of 37 weeks of pregnancy)
  • Placental abruption —This happens when the placenta prematurely detaches from the wall of the uterus
  • Cesarean delivery
  • Fetal growth restriction — The unborn baby's growth is limited

Tips for managing blood pressure

A mild increase in blood pressure during pregnancy may not be a cause for concern.  But your doctor will probably keep a close eye on you to be safe.

The following things may help you control your blood pressure and have a healthy pregnancy.

Before pregnancy

  • Schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss any health issues you have or had in the past. Also, share a list of all the medications you are taking or have taken recently.
  • Maintain a healthy weight - Choose healthy foods and stay active.

During pregnancy

  • Be sure to go to all of your prenatal checkups so that your doctor can check your blood pressure.
  • Healthy weight gain- Most women gain approximately 10 to 12.5 kg during the entire pregnancy. Your doctor will help you determine what's best for you and your baby.
  • Stay active- Follow your doctor's recommendations for physical activity.
  • Keep stress at bay- Try to keep your stress levels low. It may be hard to do but try to find some time to relax.
  • Eat a healthy diet
    • Avoid food that is high in salt, like canned food.
  • If you need medications to control your blood pressure, take them exactly as prescribed.

After pregnancy

  • Pay attention to how you feel after giving birth, especially if you had high blood pressure during pregnancy.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High blood pressure during pregnancy [Internet]. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/pregnancy.htm. Accessed on Aug 20, 2020.
  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Preeclampsia and high blood pressure during pregnancy [Internet]. Available at: https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/pregnancy/preeclampsia-and-high-blood-pressure-during-pregnancy. Accessed on Aug 20, 2020.
  3. Soma-Pillay P, Catherine N-P, Tolppanen H, Mebazaa A, Tolppanen H, Mebazaa A. Physiological changes in pregnancy. Cardiovasc J Afr. 2016;27(2):89–94.
  4. HealthLink BC. High blood pressure during pregnancy [Internet]. Available at:  https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/abo3926. Accessed on Aug 20, 2020.
  5. March of Dimes. High blood pressure during pregnancy [Internet]. Available at:  https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/high-blood-pressure-during-pregnancy.aspx. Accessed on Aug 20, 2020.
  6. Alberta Health Services. High blood pressure in pregnancy: Care instructions [Internet]. Available at: https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/aftercareinformation/pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=uf7884. Accessed on Aug 20, 2020.     
  7. NHS. Stretch marks in pregnancy [Internet]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/stretch-marks-pregnant/. Accessed on Aug 17, 2020.