High Blood Pressure
High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure Pregnancy and High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure develops in 1 in every 12 to 17 pregnant women in the United States. It is important to monitor your blood pressure before, during, and after pregnancy. High blood pressure during pregnancy may harm your 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. They can help you take steps to lower or control your high blood pressure before, during, and after the pregnancy.

Some medicines are safe during pregnancy and may reduce your chance of pregnancy complications. Certain other medicines for high blood pressure are not recommended during pregnancy. If you take blood pressure medicine, talk with your provider about which medicines are safe for you and your baby.

Types of high blood pressure disorders during and after pregnancy

If you have high blood pressure before pregnancy, talk with your provider about managing the condition during and after pregnancy.

Some women who typically have healthy blood pressure develop high blood pressure during or after pregnancy.

  • Gestational hypertension is blood pressure greater than or equal to 140/90  mm HG  that develops 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 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.
  • 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.

Some people may experience worsening blood pressure, or they may continue to have problems such as preeclampsia, eclampsia, or HELLP syndrome after the baby is born.

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

Your provider will measure your blood pressure at each visit as part of your regular prenatal care. 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 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.
  • Adjust your physical activity. Talk to your provider about what level of physical activity is right for you.
  • Take medicine to control your blood pressure. Talk to your provider about which medicines are safe for your baby. These medicines may include nifedipine, labetalol, methyldopa, or hydralazine.
  • 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 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 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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