Pregnant women are faced with the challenge of dealing with their general body changes. Maintaining normal blood pressure proves to be a difficult task. Regular blood pressure examinations are very important during pregnancy. Most women may not develop high blood pressure during pregnancy. However, high blood pressure (hypertension) may develop in some women. Most often the increase is mild. But in some cases, high blood pressure may become severe and harmful to both the mother and her baby. Some women may even develop pre-eclampsia; a more acute condition which is discussed below.
Normal Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
To measure blood pressure level, the reading shows two fraction-like figures, like 110/70.The top number indicates systolic blood pressure as blood is pushed round the body by the heart. The bottom number is the diastolic blood pressure as the heart relaxes between beats. It is not advisable to compare results since they vary among different individuals.The standard average blood pressure ranges between 110/70 and 120/80 for healthy individuals and may vary greatly during pregnancy.
The normal blood pressure reading should not exceed 120/80, according to MayoClinic.com. Some doctors defer with this and prefer readings below 115/75. The risk of prehypertension happens when the blood pressure reading lies between 121/80 and 139/ 89. High blood pressure is any reading above 140/90. If the readings go below 90/50, then you are most likely to have low blood pressure. Systolic or diastolic readings are used to diagnose high or low blood pressure only if one of the two measurements is outside the normal range.
According to the March of Dimes, approximately 8 percent of women during pregnancy experience high blood pressure instead of lower blood pressure which is normal.
Monitoring Blood Pressure
After knowing the normal blood pressure during pregnancy, you need to do some thing to monitor your blood pressure. Blood pressure levels indicate potential problems which may occur during pregnancy. When a pregnant woman goes for prenatal visits the doctor will often test blood pressure. However, home blood pressure monitors play an important role in checking blood pressure changes that might go unnoticed in between doctor's visits. The risk of preeclampsia or high blood pressure may develop during pregnancy and therefore it’s often advised to track the blood pressure at home.
High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
Some pregnant women have a high blood pressure rather than normal blood pressure during pregnancy.
Harms of High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
High blood pressure during pregnancy comes with a couple of risks which include:
- Blood flow to placenta decreases. It reduces the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the baby, reducing the baby's growth and increasing low birth weight risk.
- Placental abruption. This condition leads to separation of the placenta from the uterus prematurely, depriving the baby of oxygen and causing heavy bleeding in the mother.
- Premature delivery. It may lead to early delivery due to potential life threatening complications.
- Future cardiovascular disease. Pregnant women who develop preeclampsia are at increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases later in life despite the fact that blood pressure returns to normal after delivery.
Types of High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
Blood pressure may be present during pregnancy or before and comes at different stages. The following are the types of blood pressure during pregnancy:
- Chronic hypertension or pre-existing high blood pressure is the presence of high blood pressure before 20 weeks of pregnancy, and occurs in pregnant women who may have developed high blood pressure before pregnancy.With this condition, blood pressure remains high even after conception.
- Gestational hypertension is the development of high blood pressure after 20 weeks of pregnancy. This is high blood pressure that develops only during pregnancy. At this stage of pregnancy,gestational hypertension isn't usually a major problem, although you will be referred to hospital for specialist care.
- Preeclampsia. It’scharacterized by presence of high amount of protein in the urine and high blood pressure after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Preeclampsia can cause serious complications both in the mother and the baby if left untreated.
Warnings Signs of Preeclampsia
Warning signs of preeclampsia include:
- Changes in vision i.e. blurred vision, sensitivity to light, flashing lights and vision loss.
- Persistent headaches.
- Upper abdominal pain.
- Abrupt weight gain, typically more than 2.3 kg a week.
If you get mild preeclampsia and the baby isn’t fully developed, the following is recommended:
- Lie on your left side so that the weight of your baby is taken off your major blood vessels.
- Have frequent prenatal checkups.
- Consume less amount of salt.
- Drink at least 8 glasses of water per day.
- Include more protein in your diet.
- Eat less junk food and fried foods.
- Exercise regularly and make it a habit to elevate your legs several times a day.
Note: There is currently no sure way of preeclampsia prevention. Although, it’s important to follow the doctor’s instructions, e.g. get enough rest, keep a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Watch the following video to learn more on how to lower high blood pressure during pregnancy:
Is Medication for High Blood Pressure OK?
Taking medications during pregnancy affects the baby. However, medications intended to lower blood pressure are considered safe to use during pregnancy, others such as angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), enzyme inhibitors and renin inhibitors are basically not recommended during pregnancy. Treatment is considered important for any case as long as it is prescribed by the doctor.
Low Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
Low blood pressure occurs due to hormonal changes which cause dilation of the blood vessels lowering the blood pressure. The symptoms include dizziness, fainting, light headiness etc. A severe drop in blood pressure can result in organ damage such as stroke, kidney failure and heart attack. The condition can be dealt with simply by following these steps besides consulting a doctor:
- Lying or sitting down if a pregnant woman feels faint, to avoid falls.
- Avoiding standing quickly from a seated position.
- Promote increase of blood flow to the heart by lying on the left side