Intermountain Health prenatal experts say hypertension during pregnancy can be managed, and more frequent prenatal visits may be recommended.
About half of Americans have high blood pressure (hypertension) and many of them don’t know it. That’s because many people have no symptoms at all, or the symptoms are hard to recognize.
If a woman is thinking about getting pregnant, and has high blood pressure, it’s important to have it under control before becoming pregnant.
“It’s ideal to visit with your doctor or midwife before getting pregnant so any health concerns can be identified and managed before you become pregnant,” said Felicia Katz, MD, an OB/Gyn with Intermountain Health, in Salt Lake City and West Valley, UT. “Not all blood pressure medications are safe during pregnancy, so check with your provider so they can adjust your medications.”
Some women who have never had high blood pressure before, can develop high blood pressure unexpectedly during pregnancy or what’s called gestational hypertension, which typically happens after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
According to the CDC, in the United States, high blood pressure happens in 1 in every 12 to 17 pregnancies among women ages 20 to 44 and the numbers are increasing.
“Whether your high blood pressure is pre-existing or gestational, if it’s not well managed, it can lead to complications in pregnancy affecting mom or baby. That’s why blood pressure is checked at every prenatal visit,” said Dr. Katz.
According to Dr. Katz, complications of having high blood pressure during pregnancy can be very serious and include:
- Preeclampsia, when high blood pressure can lead to organ damage in the mother and ultimately cause problems with the baby
- Eclampsia, when the mother can have seizures
- A stroke, due to very high blood pressure.
- Decreased blood flow to the placenta can lead to baby receiving less oxygen and fewer nutrients, causing low birth weight
- Sometimes preterm delivery is recommended to keep mom and baby safe, but that can lead to low birth weight for the baby and their lungs may be premature.
“Watch for symptoms that might indicate your hypertension is worsening, such as headache, vison changes like blurry vision or floaters in the eyes, or pain in the upper right abdomen, which can commonly develop in the third trimester,” said Dr. Katz.
The good news is that hypertension during pregnancy can be managed, and more frequent prenatal visits may be recommended.
“If you’re at risk for hypertension during pregnancy, if you’re overweight or have had hypertension before, there are medications that can safely be taken during pregnancy to prevent hypertension,” said Dr. Katz.
For more information visit the women and newborn page on intermountainhealth.org
About Intermountain Health
Headquartered in Utah with locations in seven states and additional operations across the western U.S., www.intermountainhealth.org is a nonprofit system of 33 hospitals, 385 clinics, medical groups with some 3,900 employed physicians and advanced care providers, a health plans division called SelectHealth with more than one million members, and other health services. Helping people live the healthiest lives possible, Intermountain is committed to improving community health and is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes at sustainable costs. For more information or updates, see https://intermountainhealthcare.org/news.