High blood pressure in pregnancy

What is blood pressure? Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood as it moves through the arteries. When the pressure in the arteries becomes too high, it's called high blood pressure, or hypertension.

Blood pressure is seldom an issue in early pregnancy, and if it is a concern before 20 weeks, you’d be considered to have pre-existing (essential) hypertension. In order for the high blood pressure to be related to pregnancy, it must occur for the first time after 20 weeks. Often times, it does not occur until near the end of the pregnancy.

How can high blood pressure affect me?

Most pregnant women with high blood pressure will birth healthy babies, but a few have problems such as preterm labour and a baby who is small for their gestational age. Sometimes high blood pressure can lead to other problems, such as pre-eclampsia where other body organs become affected, such as the liver, placenta and kidneys.

How would you know if I had high blood pressure?

At every antenatal visit, your midwife or obstetrician will want to check your blood pressure. It should form a normal part of an antenatal visit. Your blood pressure should always be taken on your right arm, in a seating position, and after a period of rest. In other words, not after you have walked in the office door and not after hearing stressful news.

What can be done if I have high blood pressure?

If your midwife or obstetrician is concerned that your blood pressure is high, s/he may refer you for more testing. This would include blood tests, an ultrasound and a CTG which is more thorough monitoring of your baby’s heart rate.

The ultimate “cure” for high blood pressure that is related to pregnancy is simply to have the baby, but if your baby is too young to be born, your obstetrician may recommend medication to lower your blood pressure.

Can I birth my baby normally if I have high blood pressure?

For the most part, you can expect a normal birth, even if you have high blood pressure. It’s true that an induction is more likely, but this does not impact your ability to birth your baby normally, especially if you have one-to-one midwifery care in labour.

Can I prevent high blood pressure?

A healthy lifestyle is the best way to avoid high blood pressure in pregnancy and to minimise the rise in blood pressure if your blood pressure is high.

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