High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy - High Blood Pressure - High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy

High blood pressure can cause problems for a mother and her baby. High blood pressure 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 doctors 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 doctor about your choices for safely managing high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Types of high blood pressure disorders during and after pregnancy

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

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

  • Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy, usually 20 weeks or more after you become pregnant.
  • Preeclampsia and eclampsia. 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 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.

Managing high blood pressure during pregnancy

As part of your regular prenatal care, your doctor 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, your doctor will closely monitor you and your baby and provide 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 doctor about what level of physical activity is right for you.
  • Take medicine to control your blood pressure. If you do, talk to your doctor 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), given through an IV.
  • Take aspirin in the second trimester, if you are at risk of preeclampsia and your doctor recommends aspirin.
  • Visit your doctor 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 doctor 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.