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Sep.09.2021
 Hypertension During Pregnancy, Easy-to-Read

Hypertension During Pregnancy

Hypertension is also called high blood pressure. High blood pressure means that the force of the blood moving in your body is high enough to cause problems for you and your baby. Different types of high blood pressure can happen during pregnancy. The types are:
  • High blood pressure before you got pregnant. This is called chronic hypertension. This can continue during your pregnancy. Your doctor will want to keep checking your blood pressure. You may need medicine to control your blood pressure while you are pregnant. You will need follow-up visits after you have your baby.
  • High blood pressure that goes up during pregnancy when it was normal before. This is called gestational hypertension. It will often get better after you have your baby, but your doctor will need to watch your blood pressure to make sure that it is getting better.
  • You may develop high blood pressure after giving birth. This is called postpartum hypertension. This often occurs within 48 hours after childbirth but may occur up to 6 weeks after giving birth.

Very high blood pressure during pregnancy is an emergency that needs treatment right away.

How does this affect me?

If you have high blood pressure during pregnancy, you have a higher chance of developing high blood pressure:
  • As you get older.
  • If you get pregnant again.

In some cases, high blood pressure during pregnancy can cause:
  • Stroke.
  • Heart attack.
  • Damage to the kidneys, lungs, or liver.
  • Preeclampsia.
  • HELLP syndrome.
  • Seizures.
  • Problems with the placenta.

How does this affect my baby?

Your baby may:
  • Be born early.
  • Not weigh as much as he or she should.
  • Not handle labor well, leading to a C-section.

This condition may also result in a baby's death before birth (stillbirth).

What are the risks?

  • Having high blood pressure during a past pregnancy.
  • Being overweight.
  • Being age 35 or older.
  • Being pregnant for the first time.
  • Being pregnant with more than one baby.
  • Becoming pregnant using fertility methods, such as IVF.
  • Having other problems, such as diabetes or kidney disease.

What can I do to lower my risk?

  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Follow what your doctor tells you about treating any medical problems that you had before you got pregnant.

It is very important to go to all of your doctor visits. Your doctor will check your blood pressure and make sure that your pregnancy is progressing as it should. Treatment should start early if a problem is found.

How is this treated?

Treatment for high blood pressure during pregnancy can vary. It depends on the type of high blood pressure you have and how serious it is.
  • If you were taking medicine for your blood pressure before you got pregnant, talk with your doctor. You may need to change the medicine during pregnancy if it is not safe for your baby.
  • If your blood pressure goes up during pregnancy, your doctor may order medicine to treat this.
  • If you are at risk for preeclampsia, your doctor may tell you to take a low-dose aspirin while you are pregnant.
  • If you have very high blood pressure, you may need to stay in the hospital so you and your baby can be watched closely. You may also need to take medicine to lower your blood pressure.
  • In some cases, if your condition gets worse, you may need to have your baby early.

Follow these instructions at home:

Eating and drinking

  • Drink enough fluid to keep your pee (urine) pale yellow.
  • Avoid caffeine.

Lifestyle

  • Do not smoke or use any products that contain nicotine or tobacco. If you need help quitting, ask your doctor.
  • Do not use alcohol or drugs.
  • Avoid stress.
  • Rest and get plenty of sleep.
  • Regular exercise can help. Ask your doctor what kinds of exercise are best for you.

General instructions

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your doctor.
  • Keep all prenatal and follow-up visits.

Contact a doctor if:

  • You have symptoms that your doctor told you to watch for, such as:
    • Headaches.
    • A feeling like you may vomit (nausea).
    • Vomiting.
    • Belly (abdominal) pain.
    • Feeling dizzy or light-headed.

Get help right away if:

  • You have symptoms of serious problems, such as:
    • Very bad belly pain that does not get better with treatment.
    • A very bad headache that does not get better.
    • Blurry vision.
    • Double vision.
    • Vomiting that does not get better.
    • Sudden, fast weight gain.
    • Sudden swelling in your hands, ankles, or face.
    • Bleeding from your vagina.
    • Blood in your pee.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Chest pain.
    • Weakness on one side of your body.
    • Trouble talking.
  • Your baby is not moving as much as usual.

These symptoms may be an emergency. Get help right away. Call your local emergency services (911 in the U.S.).
  • Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away.
  • Do not drive yourself to the hospital.

Summary

  • High blood pressure is also called hypertension.
  • High blood pressure means that the force of the blood moving in your body is high enough to cause problems for you and your baby.
  • Get help right away if you have symptoms of serious problems due to high blood pressure.
  • Keep all prenatal and follow-up visits.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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