Are You Pregnant With High Blood Pressure?
Your heart has to work much harder to pump blood around your body when you have high blood pressure or hypertension and this can lead to your heart muscle weakening. Approximately 10-15% of pregnant women will be affected by hypertension. There are three types. Gestational hypertension – this is high blood pressure caused as a result of pregnancy. This is the most common type of hypertension and affects 5-10% of pregnant women. The stress on your body from the pregnancy causes your blood pressure to rise but it does not normally have any effect on you or your unborn baby. You just have to attend regular check-ups to monitor your progress and make sure it does not lead to anything serious. There are many pregnant women with this type of hypertension that give birth naturally after 37 weeks. Chronic hypertension – this is if you already have high blood pressure before becoming pregnant and affects 1-3% of pregnancies. You need to check with your doctor whether the normal drugs you take are appropriate now that you are pregnant. The drugs you take to lower your blood pressure can reduce the blood flow to your placenta and baby. Your antenatal check-ups will closely monitor your baby’s growth and your general condition. The type of treatment you are prescribed is dependent on the cause of your high blood pressure. The aim is to keep your blood pressure under control to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Pre-eclampsia – this affects 2-5% of pregnancies. It is normally diagnosed at around twenty weeks onwards and is most prevalent during the third trimester. If pre-eclampsia is not treated it can lead to the mother suffering a seizure and in rare cases it can be fatal. As there are no symptoms to warn you that you have pre-eclampsia, it is usually detected when you are having your blood pressure taken and your routine urine checks carried out by your midwife. The urine test will detect any protein in your urine as this can be a symptom of pre-eclampsia. There will also be a test to reveal whether your blood pressure is too high. Other signs of pre-eclampsia are severe headaches, stomach pain and swollen legs or ankles. Ensure that you attend all your antenatal appointments, rescheduling them if necessary. Pre-eclampsia if severe, can damage your health and that of your unborn baby. For you, untreated pre-eclampsia can lead to stroke, blood clotting complications, kidney and liver dysfunctions, fluid on lungs, seizures and in rare cases death. For your baby, if it is left untreated it can lead to your baby being born too soon, too small or even stillborn. The only cure for pre-eclampsia is to deliver the baby. Drugs are used to treat pre-eclampsia and lower the blood pressure. It all depends on how severe the pre-eclampsia is, as to how often you are monitored and how soon the baby will need to be delivered. It is not known what the specific cause of pre-eclampsia is but it is thought that being overweight as you get pregnant can heighten the risks of you getting it. It is therefore a good idea to be at an ideal and healthy weight before you conceive. Also you are more likely to get pre-eclampsia if you already have high blood pressure as you become pregnant and also if you had the condition during a previous pregnancy. If this is applicable to you then it is imperative you have regular check-ups where your blood pressure and urine is tested. By Eirian Hallinan