Diagnosed with high blood pressure during pregnancy? All you need to know
While pregnancy is a beautiful experience in a woman’s life, it can come with its fair share of problems or side-effects. One of these can be high blood pressure. Also known as gestational hypertension, high blood pressure in pregnancy, when diagnosed on time, can be easily managed without risking the mother’s or baby’s wellbeing. Here’s everything you need to know about how to diagnose and manage the condition.
What is gestational hypertension?
High blood pressure that develops during pregnancy is known as gestational hypertension. Luckily, it doesn’t come with other complications like heart and kidney problems. While it usually goes away after giving birth, women who develop it should be careful as they are more likely to develop chronic hypertension in the future.
What are its potential risks?
Unfortunately, high blood pressure, when not diagnosed on time and not managed correctly, can lead to several complications, both for the mother and the baby. For the mother, preeclampsia is the biggest risk. Another major risk is placental abruption, where the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus. High blood pressure can also mean that the mother needs to be given medicines to induce labour.
Gestational hypertension can also cause some complications for the baby. This includes premature delivery (where the birth happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and low birth weight (where the baby weighs less than 2.5 kg at birth). Both conditions happen because the high blood pressure makes it harder for the foetus to get the oxygen and nutrients that it needs for proper development.
Who is at risk of developing gestational hypertension?
While there is no hard and fast rule to this, there are certain conditions that make some women more susceptible to gestational hypertension than others. These include:
- Those going through their first pregnancy are more likely to get gestational hypertension.
- The chances of high blood pressure are also high if the mother has a history of gestational hypertension or preeclampsia during previous pregnancies.
- If you’re carrying multiples (twins, triplets, etc.), the chances of high blood pressure increase.
- Obesity is also a major risk factor when it comes to gestational diabetes.
- Geriatric pregnancy, where the mother is older than 35, also increases the risk of developing high blood pressure. The risk is also high if the mother is younger than 20 years.
- A history of high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease can pose a risk too.
Diagnosing high blood pressure
Gestational hypertension is usually diagnosed after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The sooner it gets diagnosed, the better it can be managed. So it’s important to watch out for signs of high blood pressure during pregnancy. They include oedema, sudden weight gain, blurred or double vision, nausea or vomiting, pain around the stomach or the upper right side of the belly, and inadequate urination.
Unfortunately, many women don’t experience any of these symptoms, so the best way to keep a lookout for high blood pressure is to get tested by your doctor regularly. Tests that are used to diagnose gestational hypertension involve blood pressure readings, checking for swelling, weight checks, blood clotting tests, and liver and kidney function tests.
Management of gestational hypertension
Once gestational hypertension is diagnosed, the main goal is to prevent it from getting worse and causing more problems. Steps taken to manage the problem include:
Blood pressure monitoring
Your doctor will ideally check your blood pressure at every appointment to make sure it’s not out of control. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, make sure you tell your doctor about it.
Monitoring the foetus
To ensure that your hypertension is not affecting the foetus, your doctor will do some checks that include foetal movement counting, non-stress testing, biophysical profile, and Doppler flow studies. These studies will give the doctor enough warning when something is going wrong with the baby. This will help him or her to take action well in time.
While there are no medicines available to cure gestational hypertension, your doctor may put you on medication if there is a high likelihood of preterm labour. These medicines, known as corticosteroids, can help with lung formation in your baby.
Blood and urine tests
Your doctor will most probably get urine and blood tests done at every prenatal check-up. This will help her monitor your condition and make sure it’s not getting any worse.
Even though it is essential to follow a healthy diet to reduce high blood pressure during pregnancy, you may need to change your diet according to your symptoms, with the help of a medical practitioner. It is recommended that you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products and healthy fats. You should also refrain from consuming too much salt if you are suffering from high blood pressure.
Gestational hypertension might sound scary, but if diagnosed and managed correctly, it won’t pose a major threat. If you’re at risk of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy, make sure you get your pressure checked at regular intervals. In case you’re experiencing any symptoms discussed in this article, do reach out to your doctor immediately.