Pregnancy Hypertension: Essential Facts, Symptoms, and Management Tips

During pregnancy, it can be rather typical for someone's blood pressure to increase from their pre-pregnancy state. This is because pregnant individuals have much higher blood volume than before pregnancy. When defining pregnancy hypertension, we look at the systolic and diastolic numbers that the blood pressure will read. 

The average blood pressure is 120/60. The top number is the systolic number. The systolic number is the maximum amount of pressure during a contraction of the ventricles. The bottom number is the diastolic number. The diastolic number is the minimum pressure of the ventricles right before a contraction. These two numbers together give us a blood pressure reading. 

Pregnancy hypertension is defined as blood pressure equal to or greater than 140mmHg systolic or 90mmHg diastolic that begins after 20 weeks gestation.

What Do I Need to Know?

Pregnancy hypertension affects about 6-8% of all pregnancies, and the only way to heal pregnancy hypertension is to have the baby. By itself, pregnancy hypertension can be managed, but an eye must be kept on it because it can cause complications and lead to something called pre-eclampsia. Although commonly found together, pre-eclampsia and pregnancy hypertension are not the same thing. High blood pressure does not impact the liver or cause protein in your urine, whereas pre-eclampsia does. 

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Who Is At Risk?

Some things can cause an individual to be at a higher risk for pregnancy hypertension. These include:

  • Being younger than 20 or older than 40 years old.
  • A personal or family history of pregnancy hypertension or pre-eclampsia.
  • Having diabetes or gestational diabetes.
  • Autoimmune disorders.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Carrying multiples.
  • If you are Black.

What Are The Signs of Pregnancy Hypertension?

Unfortunately, hypertension does not have many noticeable symptoms. Because of this, it is called the silent killer. This is why it is essential to get your blood pressure taken at every appointment and why prenatal appointments are more frequent towards the end of pregnancy. Some signs that may be caused by hypertension or pre-eclampsia include swelling, frequent or intense headaches, rapid weight gain, changes or disturbances to vision, nausea and vomiting, urinating less, and pain in your stomach.

What Are The Dangers?

The dangers of hypertension, other than it leading to eventual pre-eclampsia, are that it can cause seizures, a stroke, kidney failure, liver problems, and clotting problems. Hypertension can impact the placenta and, therefore, affect your baby by causing it to have a lower birth weight, causing premature birth, and in extreme cases, it can cause stillbirth.

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What Can I Do?

Suppose you are getting a higher blood pressure reading. In that case, your care provider will likely have you take frequent urine samples to check for protein in your urine, run some blood tests, and ask about headaches, swelling, nausea, and vomiting. Some medications can be given to help with blood pressure, as well as herbs like Dandelion Root, Crampbark, Milk Thistle, and Hawthorn Berries. Other things that tend to help with lowering blood pressure include getting 60 minutes of cardio daily, eating 100g of protein daily, drinking 100oz of water daily, prioritizing relaxation and rest, and eating the BEST diet, which includes Beats, Eggs, Spinach, and Turkey, and eating the DASH diet which prioritizes foods rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, fiber and protein and limits salts and saturated fats.

Your care provider might have you prioritize getting in for weekly biophysical profiles, non-stress tests, and ultrasounds. Still, it can also be helpful to do fetal kick counts to ensure your baby is moving usually. Kick counts include lying on your left side after drinking a big glass of juice or water and counting your baby's movements for one hour. There should be ten movements within that time. You can be done as soon as you count ten and continue your day. If you do not get ten in an hour, you should call your care provider to see what they want to do next.

In some circumstances, doing the following things above and bed rest can help keep your blood pressure regular until your baby is full term and ready to be delivered. At other times, induction will be necessary. This is one of those circumstances where you need a care provider you trust to do what will be best for you and your baby. Listen to your gut and trust it.

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