When Pregnancy Raises Your Blood Pressure

Having high blood pressure (hypertension) can cause serious problems for you and your baby during pregnancy. Some pregnant women have chronic high blood pressure. This means that they had it before they got pregnant. Others get high blood pressure in pregnancy.

High blood pressure problems are a leading cause of maternal deaths in the United States. That’s why it’s important to see your healthcare provider. This way, any high blood pressure issues can be caught and treated early. There are different types of high blood pressure in pregnancy.

Chronic hypertension

Women who have high blood pressure before pregnancy will still have it during pregnancy. These women have a higher risk of preeclampsia.

Babies born to pregnant women with chronic high blood pressure are also at higher risk for preterm birth, poor growth, and even death. Pregnant women with chronic high blood pressure have a higher risk of congestive heart failure and kidney failure.

Gestational hypertension

High blood pressure during pregnancy often start about halfway through pregnancy. It normally comes on after 20 weeks. This condition usually goes away after pregnancy. However, it may last through the postpartum period. 

Preeclampsia and eclampsia

Preeclampsia is the most common type of high blood pressure in pregnancy.  It often starts after 20 weeks. It can involve several systems in your body.

It’s more common with first pregnancies, in older women, and in women who have other health problems. These include chronic high blood pressure and diabetes. Having preeclampsia can also raise your risk for other issues. These include eclampsia, which causes seizures.   

Self-care steps

You should have your blood pressure checked regularly while you’re pregnant. Talk with your healthcare provider about lifestyle changes. Being active and gaining a healthy amount of weight may lower your risk of high blood pressure.

If pregnancy causes your blood pressure to rise, there are some steps you can take to keep it under control. Try the following:

  • Exercise regularly

  • Maintain what your healthcare provider tells you is a healthy weight

  • Check your blood pressure at home if your healthcare provider says to. Tell him or her about any high readings.

  • Tell your healthcare provider about any signs of high blood pressure problems. These include swelling, headaches, changes in your vision, and nausea and vomiting.  

Online Medical Reviewer: Bowers, Nancy, RN, BSN, MPHFoley, Maryann, RN, BSN

Date Last Reviewed: 4/12/2016

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