High Blood Pressure and Preeclampsia

Posted On: November 29, 2022 By CIW

Preeclampsia is a serious blood pressure condition that 1 in 25 pregnant women develop in the United States. Although preeclampsia can cause complications, close monitoring and treatment can keep the mother and baby healthy to ensure safe delivery.

What is High Blood Pressure?

There are three types of high blood pressure that a woman may have during pregnancy:

Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a sudden increase in blood pressure during the last trimester or after the 20th week of pregnancy. Preeclampsia can cause serious complications for mothers and their babies since it affects the liver and kidneys and can cause fetal growth restriction. In some cases, symptoms do not start until after delivery and this is called postpartum preeclampsia.

Gestational Hypertension

Like preeclampsia, gestational hypertension develops after the 20th week of pregnancy. However, it usually does not have any harmful side effects on the mother or baby and goes away within 12 weeks after birth. Severe cases can cause low birth weight or preterm birth or lead the mother to develop preeclampsia.

Chronic Hypertension

Chronic hypertension or high blood pressure is not always linked to pregnancy. Some women could have high blood pressure for years before getting pregnant but did not know until it was checked at the prenatal visit. In some cases, chronic hypertension can lead to preeclampsia which is why it is important to monitor blood pressure at prenatal visits.

Symptoms of Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia can have mild to severe complications so it is important to recognize the following symptoms that may occur after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

  • Proteinuria: protein in your urine
  • Swelling in the face and hands
  • Persistent headache
  • Vision problems
  • Pain in the upper abdomen on your right side
  • Difficulty breathing

If left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to maternal stroke, at which point the condition is call eclampsia. Severe preeclampsia can also lead to HELLP syndrome, which causes elevated liver enzymes and a breakdown of healthy red blood cells. These are both rare but series conditions.

Who is at Risk for Preeclampsia?

Women with chronic high blood pressure or hypertension before pregnancy or those who develop gestational hypertension are especially at risk of developing preeclampsia. Other risk factors that may put women at risk are obesity, pregnancy over the age of 40, twins or triplets, family history of preeclampsia, high blood pressure in a previous pregnancy, and certain health conditions such as diabetes, lupus, kidney disease, or thrombophilia. Women who have undergone in vitro fertilization, egg donation, or donor insemination may also be at risk.

Treatment for Preeclampsia

Prenatal Visits

Regular prenatal visits are important for every pregnancy since proper treatment can prevent certain complications or keep them from worsening. Your provider will check your blood pressure and urine at each prenatal visit and if your blood pressure is high (especially after the 20th week), additional tests can be done. Close monitoring of the baby’s growth with ultrasounds and heart rate monitoring as well as medications to control the mother’s blood pressure will lower the risk of premature labor.

Delivery

Delivering the baby can often resolve symptoms and complications resulting from preeclampsia. If you are 37 week’s pregnant or more, delivery is generally safe. Before 37 weeks, women can also receive steroid shots to speed up the growth of their baby’s lungs in preparation for early delivery.

Schedule a Consultation

MFM specializes in high-risk pregnancies and will provide you with considerate and effective care to ensure a healthy pregnancy. If you believe you are at risk of preeclampsia or high blood pressure disorders, schedule a consultation for a prenatal visit with our women’s health specialists.

Carnegie Imaging for Women blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!

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