Understanding Hypertension and Pregnancy

Whether you’re already expecting or want to be soon, pregnancy puts a lot on your to-do list. From doctor’s appointments to nursery prep – there’s a lot to keep track of.

But make sure that monitoring your blood pressure is at the top of that list!  Whether you’ve struggled with hypertension (high blood pressure) previously or not, pregnancy can have a big impact on your blood pressure.

Understanding Hypertension in Pregnancy

There are multiple types of hypertension that can affect you when you’re pregnant: 

  • If you were diagnosed with hypertension before you became pregnant, or if you develop it early in your pregnancy, your doctor may talk to you about Chronic Hypertension.
  • Gestational Hypertension, on the other hand, is developed later in your pregnancy. Unfortunately, there is no known way to prevent gestational hypertension.
  • Lastly, preeclampsia is a sudden increase in blood pressure after the 20th week of pregnancy.  It is a very serious condition that could impact the health (or worse) for you and your baby.  

Why it’s a big deal

Why should you care about your blood pressure when you have so much else to think about and prepare for? 

Aside from affecting your own personal health and potentially causing damage to your internal organs, unchecked gestational hypertension can lead to early delivery, placental abruption, and future heart disease.

And for those who are trying to conceive, hypertension can make it even more difficult.

Knowing your risk

No matter which type of hypertension is your concern, talk to your doctor about the risks and any concerns early in your pregnancy.  You may review things like your risk factors, including:

  • Family history of hypertension and/or preeclampsia
  • Diabetes
  • Medications, including birth control, ACE inhibitors, etc.

Knowing your own risk can help you and your doctor to identify symptoms and warning signs earlier, which will help to reduce risk to you and your unborn child.

Plan ahead

Okay, now for some good news. While there may be no known way to prevent gestational hypertension or preeclampsia, chronic hypertension is a preventable condition.  And for all three types of hypertension, taking care of yourself can help to increase your odds of a healthy pregnancy.

You can help keep you and your baby healthy by keeping your prenatal appointments, remaining active, eating healthily, and knowing what things to avoid (like excess salt).

If you’re concerned about your blood pressure or your risk for developing hypertension during pregnancy, speak with your doctor.  You can work together to identify your risk factors and take measures to improve heart health if needed.  Plus, you can talk about specific symptoms to watch for and what to do if they develop – it’s like having a birth plan for your heart!