Understanding High Blood Pressure

Reviewed by James Brann, MD
If you have high blood pressure there’s a good chance you can still have a normal pregnancy. However, you are at a greater risk of certain problems during pregnancy, including:
  • Placental abruption - The placenta is attached to the inside wall of the uterus. It’s the organ that brings oxygen and nutrients to your baby while carrying waste away. When a placental abruption occurs, either part or all of the placenta actually separates from your uterus before you deliver. In this situation, your baby may not be getting enough oxygen and nutrients.
  • Baby’s growth slows - You baby may not grow normally, and may be small.
  • Preeclampsia - Women with this problem not only have high blood pressure, but also have problems with their kidneys, eyes or liver, and too much protein in their urine. Preeclampsia is most common during the last half of pregnancy, and may be dangerous. It may affect the mom’s blood, heart, liver and nervous system. It may also lead to problems with her child’s growth while in the uterus.

Before getting pregnant

Before even trying to get pregnant, you need to talk to your doctor. They’ll help you get your blood pressure under control, and may possibly switch you to a different blood pressure medicine, or change your dosage. The goal is to make sure your blood pressure medicine remains safe during your pregnancy.

Tests during pregnancy

Every time you visit the doctor, your blood pressure will be checked, along with your baby’s growth. You’ll also need to have your baby checked out routinely during your pregnancy.
As stated above, you’ll most likely need to keep taking blood pressure medicine during your pregnancy to make sure you keep it under control.

Call your doctor immediately if:
  • You’re having contractions - This is when your uterus muscle squeezes; possibly causing some pain and making your belly feel hard.
  • You have some pain in your belly
  • You aren’t feeling your baby move as frequently
  • You have vaginal bleeding
  • You have preeclampsia symptoms - This may include upper belly pain, a serious headache or changes in your vision, including flashes of light or blurry vision.

Delivery & baby health

Most women can still have a normal vaginal delivery with high blood pressure.

As long as you’ve kept your blood pressure under control while you were pregnant, there’s a good chance your baby will stay healthy. However, some pregnant women with high blood pressure are at an increased chance of delivering early. With preeclampsia, a small baby, or a placental abruption, your doctor may end up needing to deliver your child early.

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