High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can be a concern for anyone, including pregnant women. Blood pressure is an important indicator of overall health. It is directly related to heart health and can have lasting impacts on your cardiovascular system, organs, and brain. Whether you already have high blood pressure or experience gestational hypertension, your OBGYN will keep a close eye on your blood pressure numbers.
Learn more about blood pressure during pregnancy so you can monitor it and keep it under control—for your health and for the health of your baby.
What is high blood pressure?
Blood pressure is measured in two numbers – systolic and diastolic. The top number represents the systolic pressure—when your heart is beating. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure, indicating the pressure in your arteries and veins when the heart is at rest—between heartbeats.
With low blood pressure, a person can feel faint and pass out. The most common symptom of high blood pressure is headaches, so it is often left untreated.
The challenge with high blood pressure is that the only way to know if you have elevated or high pressure is to be tested for it. A nurse or doctor will wrap your arm with a cuff and monitor your heartbeat to take your blood pressure. It is a simple, painless process that you have likely experienced any time you visit the doctor. Some pharmacies and gyms also have free blood pressure machines that you can use to monitor your own blood pressure.
The medical community considers normal blood pressure to be less than 120/80. Stage 1 hypertension begins with a blood pressure of 130/80 or higher. Stage 2 high blood pressure is diagnosed at 140/90 and up. The American Heart Association provides a straightforward explanation of blood pressure and hypertension.
High blood pressure has been associated with serious long-term effects on the body, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. The stress of extra pressure in the veins and arteries causes the heart to work harder. High blood pressure can also affect the kidneys and other organs. With these associations with major health issues, high blood pressure is not something that should go untreated once it is detected.
What does high blood pressure mean during pregnancy?
If you have high blood pressure while you’re pregnant, it can disrupt normal blood flow to the fetus. This can slow the growth of the baby. The risk of a condition called preeclampsia also increases with hypertension. If untreated, preeclampsia can lead to seizures, placental separation, and other serious complications for the mother and the baby.
Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure that occurs during pregnancy. Your OBGYN will monitor your blood pressure and urine protein at each visit to see if you have gestational hypertension. You should be aware of any symptoms you experience, such as headaches, nausea, upper abdominal pain, and sudden swelling or weight gain. These could be signs of high blood pressure or preeclampsia.
If your numbers represent hypertension, your doctor may prescribe treatment for you and your baby. Treatment with medications is common for people with high blood pressure, however, for pregnant women, the medications and parameters differ. If you have pre-existing hypertension your usual prescriptions may need to be switched for medications that are safe for the mother and the baby.
Want more details? You can learn more about blood pressure and pregnancy from Mayo Clinic.
Manage All High Blood Pressure
Whether you’re expecting or not, you should be aware of your blood pressure numbers. If you are planning to become pregnant and know that you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor to develop a plan for managing it. Your OBGYN will monitor you to make sure your high blood pressure stays under control. If you have questions about blood pressure and pregnancy, talk to your doctor at West Des Moines OBGYN. Make your appointment now.