High Blood Pressure
High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure Pregnancy and High Blood Pressure

In the United States, high blood pressure happens in 1 in every 12 to 17 pregnancies. It’s important to monitor blood pressure before, during, and after pregnancy. High blood pressure during pregnancy can harm a mother’s kidneys and other organs and can cause early birth (called preterm birth) and low birth weight.

Planning for pregnancy

If you are thinking about having a baby and have high blood pressure, talk with your healthcare provider so you can take steps to lower or control your high blood pressure before and during the pregnancy.

Some medicines used to treat high blood pressure are not recommended during pregnancy. If you are taking medicines to lower or control your high blood pressure, talk with your provider about your choices for safely managing high blood pressure while pregnant.

Types of high blood pressure disorders during and after pregnancy

If you have high blood pressure before pregnancy, it will need to be managed during and after pregnancy.

In addition, some women who have a healthy blood pressure develop high blood pressure during or after pregnancy.

  • Gestational hypertension is blood pressure greater than or equal to 140/90 that develops during pregnancy. It’s typically diagnosed after 20 weeks of pregnancy or close to delivery.
  • Preeclampsia is a combination of high blood pressure during pregnancy and signs that your organs are not working well, such as high protein levels in your urine. This can lead to life-threatening seizures or coma, a condition known as eclampsia. Women who have had preeclampsia have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure and heart disease later in life.
  • HELLP syndrome is a more severe type of preeclampsia or eclampsia.
  • High blood pressure disorders may continue after the baby is born. Some women may continue to have high blood pressure problems, including preeclampsia, eclampsia, or HELLP syndrome, after the birth of their child, or their high blood pressure may get worse.
  • A sudden spike in blood pressure (more than 160/110 mm HG ) can also happen during pregnancy or after the baby is born. This is a medical emergency.

Watch for warning signs of a heart problem, including high blood pressure, during and after pregnancy. Some warning signs are a worsening headache, overwhelming tiredness, dizziness, trouble breathing, chest or belly pain, swelling, or nausea. If you feel like something is wrong, get medical care right away.

Managing high blood pressure during pregnancy

As part of your regular prenatal care, your healthcare provider will measure your blood pressure at each visit. Learn more about how to prepare for a blood pressure test.

If you have high blood pressure, you and your baby will be closely monitored so you can receive special care to lower the chance of complications. You may need to:

  • Check your blood pressure at home. Visit Measure Your Blood Pressure for more information.
  • Keep track of how many times you feel the baby kicking each day.
  • Limit your physical activity. Talk to your healthcare provider about what level of physical activity is right for you.
  • Take medicine to control your blood pressure. If you do, talk to your provider about which medicines are safe for your baby. These medicines may include calcium-channel blockers (nifedipine) taken by mouth, or beta blockers (labetalol) or vasodilators (hydralazine) through an intravenous (IV) injection.
  • Take aspirin in the second trimester, if you are at risk of preeclampsia and your provider recommends aspirin.
  • Visit your provider more often to monitor your condition and your baby’s growth rate and heart rate. He or she may order blood and urine tests to check how well your organs are working, which can help detect preeclampsia.

If your healthcare provider is concerned about you or your baby’s health, they may recommend that you deliver your baby before 39 weeks. You may need to stay in the hospital to get medicine that will help your baby’s lungs develop faster and to be monitored before and after you deliver your baby.

Pregnancy and your heart health fact sheet
Fact sheet
Pregnancy and Your Heart Health

Learn about the risks of high blood pressure before, during, and after pregnancy and get questions to ask your doctor. 

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