Whether you had high blood pressure before your pregnancy or you develop it during your pregnancy, having hypertension while you’re carrying a child can be a worrisome condition. That said, high blood pressure during pregnancy can also be managed, especially if you have the right medical team working with you.
At Associates in Obstetrics & Gynecology, board-certified gynecologist and obstetrician Dr. Jack Tubbs and our team have ample experience with high-risk pregnancies, including those where hypertension is a concern.
Here, we review the ways high blood pressure can develop during a pregnancy and what we can do to safeguard you and your unborn child.
Three types of blood pressure issues during pregnancy
When we talk about high blood pressure during pregnancy, there are three main ways it can develop:
1. Chronic hypertension
If you consider that nearly half of adults in the United States (more than 47%) have high blood pressure, it follows that a fair amount of women enter pregnancy with chronic hypertension. Now, consider that a woman’s blood volume increases during pregnancy. Typically the amount of blood increases about 45% above prepregnancy levels, but with a range of 20% and 100%.
If this added volume leads to an increase in an already-high blood pressure, it can stress your heart and kidneys, as well as reduce blood flow to your placenta.
2. Gestational hypertension
If your blood pressure was normal before you became pregnant, but rises to a systolic pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher and/or a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher, this is known as gestational hypertension.
This type of high blood pressure typically occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy.
In most cases, the hypertension subsides after the pregnancy, but you may be more at risk for developing high blood pressure down the road.
This is the most serious of hypertensive problems and mostly occurs in the third trimester, though it can also develop after childbirth. With preeclampsia, our concern is that you may develop seizures or have a stroke, as well as a very dangerous condition called HELLP syndrome, which stands for hemolysis (the breakdown of red blood cells), elevated liver enzymes, and low platelets (which leads to problems with bleeding and clotting).
Managing your blood pressure
During your regular prenatal visits with us, one of the first areas we check is your blood pressure, which allows us to spot a problem as early as possible. This is why it’s important that you keep up with your prenatal schedule.
If we see an elevation in your blood pressure numbers, we take steps to counteract the rise, which may include:
- Medications that lower your blood pressure
- Low-dose daily aspirin
- Lifestyle changes, such as staying active
- Nutritional improvements
We may also equip you with a blood pressure monitor you can use at home between visits with us so you can monitor your health more frequently.
We also want to note that there are many reasons why you shouldn’t smoke or drink alcohol during a pregnancy. If, however, you’re dealing with hypertension during your pregnancy, it’s paramount that you quit both right away.
If you want to learn more about managing your blood pressure during pregnancy, please contact our office in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to schedule a consultation.