Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. The heart pumps blood into the arteries (blood vessels) that carry the blood throughout the body. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, means that the pressure in the arteries is above the normal range.
High blood pressure during pregnancy can impact the body in different ways than it normally would. Mothers with high blood pressure during pregnancy are at a higher risk of complications before, during and after the birth. Not only is the mother’s health in danger, but the baby can be impacted by high blood pressure during pregnancy.
High blood pressure during pregnancy can affect the development of the placenta, causing the nutrient and oxygen supply to the baby to be limited. This can lead to an early delivery, low birth weight, placental separation (abruption) and other complications for the baby.
High blood pressure (hypertension) complicates about 10 percent of all pregnancies. There are several different types of high blood pressure during pregnancy. These types vary in severity and impact on the body. The forms of high blood pressure during pregnancy include:
A woman is more likely to develop high blood pressure (hypertension) during pregnancy if she:
High blood pressure (hypertension) during pregnancy can prevent the placenta (the food supply for the baby in the womb) from receiving enough blood. The lowered amount of blood to the placenta can lead to a low birth weight. Other complications can occur from high blood pressure during pregnancy. These conditions do not happen to all women with high blood pressure. They can include:
High blood pressure (hypertension) during pregnancy can be treated in a variety of ways depending on the severity, cause and time of onset. Mothers with all forms of hypertension will need to be monitored closely. This could include more prenatal visits, ultrasounds, and other tests to ensure the baby’s well-being (monitoring of fetal heart rate or activity).
Steps that patients with high blood pressure (hypertension) during pregnancy can take to help the chances of having a safe and healthy delivery include:
Since the cause of high blood pressure (hypertension) during pregnancy is not known, it is not a condition that can usually be prevented. In some women at high risk for developing high blood pressure, healthcare providers often recommend daily baby aspirin for prevention. High blood pressure during pregnancy can sometimes be managed and controlled with the help of a healthcare provider. However, this may often require delivery of the baby. Your blood pressure will be checked regularly during prenatal appointments. If you have any concerns about your blood pressure, speak with your healthcare provider.
High blood pressure (hypertension) during pregnancy typically goes away after the baby is delivered but increases the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease in the future. Women who had chronic hypertension before pregnancy will usually still have the condition after delivery. Sometimes, blood pressure can remain high after delivery, requiring treatment with medication. Your healthcare provider will work with you after your pregnancy to manage your blood pressure.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 01/21/2019