High blood pressure & pre-eclampsia
High blood pressure during pregnancy may be a one-off event or it may indicate a more severe condition called pre-eclampsia. High blood pressure should always be investigated.
High blood pressure
High blood pressure is also called hypertension. In pregnancy it can develop because of the pregnancy or you may already have high blood pressure. It may occur after 20 weeks gestation and be a one-off event, or be part of a more complex condition such as pre-eclampsia. Treatment includes rest, monitoring your blood pressure, monitoring your baby and your wellbeing and may require medication. If your blood pressure doesn’t settle then you may need to have your baby earlier.
Pre-eclampsia is one of the more common complications of pregnancy and can happen at any time during the second half of pregnancy or the ﬁrst few days after the birth.
The signs of pre-eclampsia are high blood pressure, protein in urine and sudden excessive swelling of the face, hands and feet. Sudden blurred vision is also a symptom. It is also possible to have pre-eclampsia without having any symptoms at all.
Pre-eclampsia can cause circulation problems, which can affect the blood supply to the placenta and limit the baby’s supply of nutrients and oxygen. This can reduce the baby’s ability to grow.
Pre-eclampsia affects one in ten pregnancies and for most women the illness remains mild. In some cases it can become serious and affect other parts of the body such as liver and blood clotting system (HELLP syndrome) and can also lead to convulsions (eclampsia).
Pre-eclampsia can get worse very quickly, which is dangerous for both mother and baby. Women with pre-eclampsia are closely monitored. In the case of severe pre-eclampsia, you will need to be monitored in hospital and may have to have your baby early.
HELLP syndrome is the severe form of pre-eclampsia and requires urgent medical attention for both the mother and baby.
Drugs may be used to control your blood pressure and prevent convulsions. However, if your pre-eclampsia becomes severe, the cure is to deliver the baby and placenta. This could mean that your baby is born very early and may be at risk of developing complications due to prematurity.
Future pregnancies and pre-eclampsia
The risk of having pre-eclampsia again in future pregnancies is usually small. Your risk will increase if you have other medical disorders such as hypertension, kidney disease, diabetes, or lupus.
The following symptoms could possibly indicate pre-eclampsia:
- persistent headaches that are unrelieved by over-the-counter medications
- blurred vision
- significant or sudden swelling of hands, face or feet.
Related Health Topics
Preeclampsia is an illness that occurs during or immediately after pregnancy. It can affect both the mother and the baby.
- Preeclampsia explained
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