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Blood Pressure in Pregnancy

Blood Pressure in pregnancy

Your blood pressure isn’t always a dangerous feat to conquer. However, it is important to keep on top of it during your pregnancy especially if you are experiencing high blood pressure. According to Liz Pidgley, Information Line Nurse for The BPA, "one in 10 first time mums will have some form of high blood pressure during their pregnancy". Blood pressure levels may also increase and decrease after you deliver your baby which makes it vital to monitor it closely postpartum, too.

Blood Pressure In Pregnancy - Everything You Need To Know

There is plenty to learn about blood pressure and its effects on your pregnancy. If you are experiencing high or low blood pressure during your pregnancy, the more you learn about it, the more you can stay on top of it.

1. What is a Normal Blood Pressure Reading?

Normal blood pressure can be subjective based on your history. Your doctor will track your blood pressure over the course of a few weeks to determine a baseline to find your “normal”. However, a standard blood pressure reading is usually 120/80 mm Hg.

2. What is High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure is defined by a blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg. Sometimes, high blood pressure may arise prior to your pregnancy or it may be stimulated throughout your pregnancy. Either way, it’s important to note the different forms of high blood pressure.

  • Gestational hypertension. This form of high blood pressure usually develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Chronic hypertension. Usually occurs prior to your pregnancy or before your 20-week mark.
  • Chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia. For women who have chronic hypertension before their pregnancy, the development of worsening blood pressure can be related to superimposed preeclampsia.
  • Preeclampsia. Preeclampsia can develop from hypertension after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

3. What are the Symptoms?

High blood pressure does, luckily, show signs before it can become a major concern. If you experience the following symptoms, you may want to consult your physician to monitor your blood pressure.

  • Increased weight gain
  • Prolonged headaches
  • Blurry vision Seeing spots or stars
  • Abdomen pain in the upper right side
  • Swelling in your hands and face

4. What are the Causes?

In many cases, high blood pressure can be hereditary. However, the NHLBI has noted that there are some factors that contribute to higher blood pressure.

  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor diet leading to obesity
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • First-time pregnancy
  • Carrying multiple babies
  • Being over 40
  • Assisted reproduction technology like IVF

5. What are the Risks?

Having high blood pressure alters the way in which blood is pumped throughout your system. If your body isn’t getting the right access to the nutrients it needs, your baby will be affected too.

The risks of high blood pressure include:

  • Blood flow to the placenta decreases. When the blood flow to the placenta isn’t sufficient, your baby might receive less oxygen and fewer nutrients than what it needs. Due to the lack of nutrients and oxygen, your baby’s growth may be restricted and be the cause of low birth weight or premature birth.
  • Premature delivery. When your blood pressure is high and there have been complications, early delivery might be needed to protect you and your baby.
  • Organ damage. If you don’t manage your high blood pressure correctly, it may result in organ damage. Organs such as your brain, heart, kidney and liver may be affected.
  • Placental abruption. One of the risks with preeclampsia is the separation of the placenta from your uterus. This can be life-threatening for you and your baby.

6. What is Low Blood Pressure Reading?

Your doctor will most likely diagnose you with low blood pressure when your readings are consistently below 90 mm Hg/ 60 mm Hg.

7. What are the Symptoms?

While low blood pressure may not be as troublesome as having high blood pressure, it can reduce your quality of life and overall comfort. Having low blood pressure may be the cause for the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Worsening fatigue
  • Taking shallow breaths
  • Dehydration despite frequent intake of liquid
  • Pale or clammy skin
  • Blurry vision

8. What are the Causes?

Low blood pressure can be caused by a number of completely normal activities like standing up too fast. However, pregnant women may notice a decrease in their blood pressure from the following causes:

  • Allergic reactions to food or medication
  • Bacterial infections
  • Too much bed rest
  • Dehydration
  • Not eating correctly
  • Anaemia
  • Endocrine disorders

9. What are the Risks?

Luckily, having low blood pressure isn’t as dangerous to you or your baby’s health as having high blood pressure is. Unlike high blood pressure, low blood pressure alone hasn’t been documented to have any direct effects on your baby.

However, it may reduce the quality of your life. Frequent fainting spells may increase your chances of injury and the loss of blood circulation can create internal issues.

One of the main risks associated with low blood pressure is the potential for organ damage. The loss of blood circulation can limit the amount of blood reaching your baby. According to NCBI, there is a small amount of research which correlates continuous low blood pressure with a negative outcome of the pregnancy.

Overall, it’s important to note that low blood pressure alone does not usually lead to any serious complications for you or your baby.

10. How Do You Stay on Top of it?

Luckily, in today’s age, there are many ways for you to keep on top of your blood pressure during your pregnancy. You can look to purchase a blood pressure monitor online or from your local pharmacy. On the other hand, you can visit your pharmacy for them to take blood pressure readings.

If you have repeated low or high readings, it’s vital that you consult your physician. Your physician will be able to determine the best way forward and if medication will be necessary to treat your condition.

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Article By

Dr Beverley (MBChB, MRCGP) is a qualified GP. She works in a GP practice in Manchester and also helps in the out of hours GP service. She has experience in both obstetrics & gynaecology and paediatrics and has three children of her own.

to read more articles by Dr Beverley Sanders

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