When blood pressure is too high
Every pregnant woman receives a maternity passport at one of her first prenatal examinations. This contains a gravidogram, in which various entries regarding the mother’s state of health and important information about the unborn child are made at each examination.
Among other things, the gravidogram contains a column in which the doctor notes the blood pressure of the expectant mother. In 10 to 20 percent of all women, elevated blood pressure levels occur in the course of pregnancy, which can endanger the health of mother and child under certain circumstances. The so-called pregnancy hypertension usually disappears on its own about 5 to 6 weeks after the birth – only in about 15 percent of all women does it develop into chronic high blood pressure.
At what point does one speak of hypertension?
Normal blood pressure is between 110/70 and 120/80 mm Hg. If the measurement shows values above 140/90 mm Hg, the doctor will repeat it and order the expectant mother to be checked at closer intervals. However, a one-time elevated blood pressure is not yet a cause for concern. Perhaps the pregnant woman was simply stressed that day or only made it to the checkup at the last minute.
Pregnancy hypertension only occurs when the blood pressure exceeds the limit of 140/90 mm Hg several times. For your own control, you can also measure your blood pressure at home in a relaxed way. You can buy or borrow a blood pressure monitor in pharmacies. Get good advice in advance on which device is suitable for you. There are wrist and upper arm blood pressure monitors. Depending on the equipment, you can get the devices from about 15 USD.
More on the subject of blood pressure measurements during pregnancy
Causes of pregnancy hypertension
- Blood increase in the maternal circulation
- Change in metabolism
Symptoms of pregnancy hypertension
- Visual disturbances
- Increased urine output
Different forms of pregnancy hypertension
Slight changes in blood pressure are considered completely normal during pregnancy and are no cause for concern. But a permanently elevated blood pressure is always a warning signal for the gynecologist. Two questions in particular are then important for him:
- Has the expectant mother already been diagnosed with elevated blood pressure before pregnancy?
- Can increased protein excretion be detected in the urine?
If neither of these questions is answered, the expert refers to uncomplicated gestational hypertension. Apart from the increased blood pressure values, which can occur from about the 20th week of pregnancy, the pregnant woman has no other complaints. However, if there is also increased protein excretion in the urine, this may be an indication of preeclampsia, especially if water retention (edema) is also present.
Grief in children
Dangers of pregnancy hypertension
Permanently elevated blood pressure damages the blood vessels of the placenta, so that the unborn child can no longer be optimally supplied with nutrients. Sad consequences of this undersupply can be growth retardation and miscarriage. If the pregnant woman only has uncomplicated gestational hypertension, it is usually sufficient to keep an eye on the blood pressure values during the preventive check-ups. However, if increased protein excretion in the urine is detected at the same time, pre-eclampsia is suspected. In the past, this was referred to as pregnancy poisoning, but today it is known that this is not a toxin formed in the mother’s body. However, the exact causes of gestosis are still not clearly understood, so attention is primarily focused on early detection and treatment of this condition. If preeclampsia is not treated, it can develop into a life-threatening situation.
Which women are particularly at risk?
Pregnancy hypertension primarily affects women who are expecting their first child. If the blood pressure values of the expectant mother were already elevated before conception, there is a high probability that the values will also be above the tolerance limit of 140/90 mm Hg during pregnancy. In addition, women expecting multiples also have an increased risk of developing gestational hypertension. The reason for this is the severe dilatation of the uterus.
Treatment of pregnancy hypertension
The doctor decides at what point drug treatment of gestational hypertension is initiated. As a rule, the limit is 160/100 mm Hg. If there is currently no immediate danger to mother and child, an attempt can first be made to lower blood pressure with a change in lifestyle. A change in diet and regular relaxation exercises are helpful. The expectant mother may be given a sick leave in order to be able to take the best possible care of herself. In the case of severe preeclampsia, the doctor may advise an early delivery in order not to put the life of mother and child at risk.
Read also: Medications during pregnancy
Gestational hypertension usually occurs without any noticeable symptoms. Perhaps the expectant mother feels dizziness or a little headache now and then. It is therefore all the more important to attend the recommended preventive check-ups during pregnancy in order to be able to detect and treat elevated blood pressure in good time.
[Please note: Our items cannot replace the advice of a doctor. If you have health problems, please always consult a doctor you trust!]