Every time you go for a checkup at your practitioner’s, you will be given blood pressure tests to determine if you are at risk of preeclampsia or other illnesses. If you have high blood pressure, you’ll be asked to watch your health more carefully. Blood pressure can tell you more than you might want to know – but let’s first find out what it’s all about.
What is high blood pressure during pregnancy?
Blood in our bodies are transported by arteries, and blood pressure refers to the force that is exerted on the walls of the arteries by blood. High blood pressure, whether one is pregnant or not, is defined as having a reading or 140 mm Hg/90 mm Hg or higher.
Having high blood pressure, or hypertension, before Week 20 of pregnancy is termed chronic hypertension. Having high blood pressure after Week 20 of pregnancy, however, is termed pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH) – PIH can develop into preeclampsia, which in turn, can cause other pregnancy complications. Let’s look at what’s considered normal and high in terms of blood pressure.
High blood pressure during pregnancy: Blood pressure ranges
Whether blood pressure is considered low, normal or high is determined by the systolic and diastolic readings. Systolic pressure refers to the pressure when the heart is beating and diastolic pressure refers to the pressure when the heart is resting.
- Systolic pressure: less than 120 mm Hg
- Diastolic pressure: less than 80 mm Hg
This is the ideal blood pressure range. The risks of a cerebral infarction (stroke), heart disease, liver disease and other illness occurring are low. However, there is a risk of the mother having blood pressure that is too low. The average blood pressure range is below 120/80, but as this varies during pregnancy, there is no need to be too worried unless your practitioner warns you about your relatively high blood pressure.
- Systolic pressure: 120 to 139 mm Hg
- Diastolic pressure: 80 to 89 mm Hg
Regardless of age, if you’re pregnant and have a blood pressure in this range, you’re at risk of getting hypertension.
High blood pressure stage 1 (Mild hypertension)
- Systolic pressure: 140 to 149 mm Hg
- Diastolic pressure: 90 to 99 mm Hg
High blood pressure stage 2 (Moderate hypertension)
- Systolic pressure: 150 to 159 mm Hg
- Diastolic pressure: 100 to 109 mm Hg
Pregnancy-induced hypertension is just a stage away, so there is a need to be careful and watch your diet.
High blood pressure stage 3 (Severe hypertension, pregnancy-induced hypertension)
- Systolic pressure: 160 mm Hg or higher
- Diastolic pressure: 110 mm Hg or higher
Pregnancy-induced hypertension means you have a systolic pressure of 160 mm Hg or more, and a diastolic pressure of 110 mm Hg or more from Week 20 of pregnancy to 12 weeks postpartum.
Risk factors that increase risk of getting high blood pressure during pregnancy
- Having hypertension prior to getting pregnant
- Being overweight or obese
- Advanced maternal age (above the age of 40) or
- Young mothers (below the age of 20)
- Multiparity (having many children)
- A multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets et cetera)
- Other conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma
- Had high blood pressure or preeclampsia in the previous pregnancy
Effects of high blood pressure during pregnancy
High blood pressure is a precursor for many other health complications, like preeclampsia. The symptoms of preeclampsia (a serious case of pregnancy-induced hypertension) are high blood pressure, proteinuria, and edema. Preeclampsia poses high risks to both mother and baby, and can cause problems to arise in blood vessels all over the body. It can harm the mother’s organs, result in a preterm labor or a low birthweight baby. In serious cases, the lives of the mother and the fetus are at risk.
The after-effects of preeclampsia can last well after pregnancy comes to an end. Preeclampsia usually occurs around Month 7 of pregnancy, but having a high blood pressure before Month 7 puts you at great risk of preeclampsia and other serious illnesses.
Going to the hospital over high blood pressure during pregnancy
Pregnancy-induced hypertension, or preeclampsia, is life-threatening even in instances where there are no symptoms. The main symptom that expectant moms can watch out for is a sudden increase in weight. Not feeling any fetal movement, a serious case of edema, headache, or prickling pain in your eyes are other symptoms.
If you’re using a digital sphygmomanometer to measure your blood pressure 3 times a day after your meals and if you see a big increase or decrease in your blood pressure, inform your practitioner .
Prevention Tips for high blood pressure during pregnancy
According to the WHO, hypertension can be managed or even to a certain extent, prevented through a change in lifestyle habits. Although the recommendations aren’t targeted at pregnant women specifically, the following tips are relevant to pregnant women with high blood pressure too:
- Stop smoking
- Stop drinking
- Have a healthy diet
-Reduce salt intake
-Eat fruits and vegetables everyday
-Reduce saturated and total fat intake
- Manage stress levels
- Monitor blood pressure at home
- Follow medical advice
No pressure over blood pressure, but be on the lookout!
If you have high blood pressure, you have to watch the food you eat and manage your weight gain during pregnancy. Managing stress levels, getting enough sleep, getting rid of fatigue and having a balanced lifestyle can also help lower your blood pressure.
Your blood pressure and urine will be checked when you go for your check-ups. Attending them diligently and making adjustments to your lifestyle is the best way to stay healthy in the long run. Be responsible for your own health!