A positive lifestyle change is a great way for the average person to control their blood pressure. However, what about pregnant women with high blood pressure? Can having high blood pressure during pregnancy harm the unborn child?
Yes. High blood pressure can result in complications during pregnancy that can be dangerous to both the mother and fetus if left untreated. There are different ways pregnant women with high blood pressure can help control their condition and reduce the health risks to the fetus. That being said, not all pregnant women with hypertension put their baby and themselves in danger. Many have healthy pregnancies without complications.
How common is hypertension in pregnancy? In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that problems with high blood pressure occur in 6 - 8% of pregnancy, over 65% of which are in women experiencing pregnancy for the first time.
What are the negative effects of hypertension? The effects high blood pressure can have on a pregnancy may be mild or severe and could include:
o Damage to the kidneys and other organs in the mother
o Cause early delivery and low birth weight
o In serious cases, the mother can develop preeclampsia (toxaemia of pregnancy), a dangerous condition that can be fatal for both the mother and fetus.
What is preeclampsia? This is a condition that usually develops in the 6th month of pregnancy and occurs from a combination of high blood pressure and kidney problems that cause protein in the urine of the mother. Preeclampsia affects the placenta and can affect the kidney, liver and even the brain of the mother.
When it affects the brain, preeclampsia can cause seizures, a dangerous condition called eclampsica which is the second leading cause of maternal death in America. Preeclampsia can also cause complications with the fetus including premature birth, low birth weight and stillbirth.
Preeclamspsia can be treated, but cannot be cured until the mother delivers the baby. There is no known way to prevent the condition, but those who show signs can be effectively treated to reduce risks.
Who is at the most risk for developing preeclampsia?
o Women with a pre-existing condition of high blood pressure prior to pregnancy
o Women who had preeclampsia or hypertension during another pregnancy
o Women who are obese
o Women who are carrying more than one child
o Women who become pregnant before the age of 20 and after the age of 40.
o Women with kidney disease, lupus, diabetes, scleroderma and rheumatoid arthritis.
Tips for controlling high blood pressure before becoming pregnant and while you are pregnant -
o Healthy Lifestyle - Make sure your blood pressure is checked regularly, you are an ideal weight, and live a healthy active lifestyle.
o Educate yourself - Talk to your doctor about your hypertension and find out what you can do to help prevent and reduce complications during pregnancy.
o Medications - If you are taking medication to control your blood pressure, find out if they are safe to take during pregnancy. Don't assume that they are safe, or will be dangerous and stop taking them without first consulting your doctor.
o Engage in regular medical care - when you are pregnant make sure you attend all regular checkups.
o Avoid alcohol and tobacco - this can increase blood pressure and harm the fetus.
o Discuss all medications with your doctor - Do not take any over-the-counter medications (even if you have a cold) without first consulting your doctor. Cold and flu medication often contains decongestants that can increase blood pressure.
Remember, although hypertension can cause complications in pregnancy, many pregnant women with high blood pressure, and even those who develop preeclampsia, often have healthy happy pregnancies and give birth to healthy, happy babies.