Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood against the blood vessel walls each time the heart contracts (squeezes) to pump blood through the body. High blood pressure is also called hypertension. During pregnancy, severe or uncontrolled hypertension can cause complications for you and your baby.
Chronic hypertension is high blood pressure that was present before you became pregnant or that occurs in the 20 weeks of your pregnancy. If you took blood pressure medication before you became pregnant, even if your blood pressure is normal, you have chronic hypertension.
Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure that first occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Although gestational hypertension usually goes away after childbirth, it may increase the risk of developing hypertension in the future.
Risks of hypertension during pregnancy
High blood pressure during pregnancy can place extra stress on your heart and kidneys and can increase your risk of heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. Other possible complications include:
- Fetal growth restriction – high blood pressure can decrease the flow of nutrients to the baby through the placenta. The baby may have growth problems as a result.
- Preeclampsia – this condition is more likely to occur in women with chronic high blood pressure.
- Preterm delivery – if the placenta is not providing enough nutrients and oxygen to your baby, it may be decided that early delivery is better for your baby than allowing the pregnancy to continue.
- Placental abruption – this condition, in which the placenta prematurely detaches from the wall of the uterus, is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.
- Cesarean delivery – women with hypertension are more likely to have a cesarean delivery than women with normal blood pressure.
Treatments for chronic hypertension during pregnancy
Your blood pressure will be monitored closely through pregnancy. You may need to monitor your blood pressure at home. Ultrasound exams may be done throughout pregnancy to track the growth of your baby. If growth problems are suspected, you may have additional tests that monitor the baby’s health. This testing usually begins in the third trimester of pregnancy.
If your hypertension is mild, your blood pressure may stay that way of even return to normal during pregnancy and your medication may be stopped or your dosage decreased. If you have sever hypertension or have health problems related to your hypertension, you may need to start or continue taking blood pressure medication during pregnancy.