High Blood Pressure and getting Pregnant

What is high blood pressure?

The pressure exerted by the blood against artery walls is called blood pressure. Readings have two numbers: a systolic (the top number) and a diastolic number (the bottom number). The systolic number measures the pressure put forth as the heart contracts. The diastolic number is the measurement of pressure between heart beats, when the heart is at rest. Normal blood pressure is generally between ninety over sixty (90/60) and one forty over ninety (140/90). High blood pressure can be dangerous for anyone and can lead to coronary heart disease, kidney disease, heart failure or stroke. The danger rises for a pregnant woman.

Effects of Blood Pressure on Pregnancy:

Pregnant women with high blood pressure or hypertension can have healthy babies without any serious health problems. Hypertension can be very dangerous for the mother and the fetus. Chronic or pre-existing high blood pressure presents more complications during pregnancy than women with normal blood pressure. But, some women develop hypertension during pregnancy. This is called gestational hypertension.

Gestational hypertension

The effects of hypertension may be mild or severe. It can harm the kidneys and other organs of the mother, and cause low birth weight in the baby. It may also result in early delivery. In serious cases, preeclampsia or toxemia develops in the mother, causing a life threatening situation for both mother and fetus.


Usually starts after the twentieth week of pregnancy and increases blood pressure and protein content in a mother’s urine. This can affect the placenta and also the mother’s liver, brain and, kidneys. Fetal complications that include premature birth, stillbirth or low birth weight are also caused by preeclampsia. If seizures occur due to preeclampsia, then it is called as eclampsia and is one of the leading causes of maternal deaths in the United States. There is no medication to prevent preeclampsia. Women with these symptoms are observed closely to avoid problems and the only treatment for preeclampsia is delivering the baby.

How common are Preeclampsia and High Blood Pressure during Pregnancy?

Hypertension occurs in six to eight percent of pregnant women in United States and about seventy percent of them are first time pregnancies. More than 146,320 preeclampsia cases were diagnosed in 1998. Cases of gestational hypertension pregnancies and eclampsia remained same in U.S over the decade but the preeclampsia rate increased by one third. This is due primarily to a rise in the number of older mothers and multiple births.

Who is more prone to develop preeclampsia?

    • Women with chronic hypertension.
    • Obese women prior to pregnancy.
    • Women who developed hypertension in the previous pregnancy.
    • Women suffering from kidney disease, lupus, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or scleroderma.
    • Pregnant women carrying more than one baby.
    • Women who are pregnant under twenty years of age and above 40 years of age.

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