Hypertension

What is hypertension?
Blood pressure can be simply be explained as the measure of force that is applied by the blood to the walls of arteries as blood is pumped through the body directing to the heart. The more blood the heart pumps through narrowing arteries, the more elevated is blood pressure.
Hypertension during pregnancy does require special attention. There are different types of hypertension during pregnancy and they are:

Chronic hypertension – this is hypertension that was occurring before pregnancy or that it occurs before 20 weeks gestation. This type may be hard to detect due to no symptoms.

Gestational hypertension – This usually develops after 20 weeks gestation. There is no excess protein in the urine and no other signs of organ damage. Some pregnant women with hypertension my develop preeclampsia.

Chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia – Women who have hypertension before becoming pregnant usually develop worsening high blood pressure. They will have protein in urine and probably will develop or have other health problems during the pregnancy.

Preeclampsia-Chronic hypertension or gestational hypertension leads to preeclampsia, a pregnancy can be characterised by high blood pressure and signs of damage to organs usually occurring after 20 weeks. If left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to dangerous, and sometimes fatal, complications for mother and baby.

Hypertension risks in pregnancy:

  • High blood pressure decreases the flow of blood to the placenta. The baby then receives less oxygen and nutrients leading to low birth weight, slow growth and a premature birth.
  • Placental abruption which is where the placenta separates for the inner wall of the uterus before delivery. The separation can cause severe bleeding and damage to the placenta which can be life threatening to both mother and baby.
  • Premature delivery is some cases may be needed to prevent further risk to the baby.
  • Future cardiovascular disease increases with having experienced preeclampsia during pregnancy. This risk increases is you experience preeclampsia more than once. To avoid future problems, after delivery maintain an ideal weight, eat a variety of fruit and vegetables, exercise and do no smoke.

Safe high blood pressure medications to take during pregnancy
As any medication taken during pregnancy is considered dangerous, the risk of not taking anything is more dangerous. Fortunately, there are hypertension medications that are considered safe. The risk of heart attacks, stroke and other health issues don’t go away during pregnancy. Never stop taking this medication nor change the dosage.

Avoiding complications during pregnancy

  • Always keep your antenatal appointments so that your obstetrician can
  • monitor your blood pressure.
  • Take your blood pressure medication as directed.
  • Eat a healthy diet low in salt.
  • Exercise as per your obstetricians’ advice.
  • Do not drink alcohol, smoke or take illicit drugs.

Always speak with your medical provider if you have any concerns.