Health News Articles

High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy: Know Your Risks

Jan 3, 2014

Pregnancy Blood Pressure2If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, keeping on top of your blood pressure can help ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy. 

High blood pressure is usually the first sign of a pregnancy-related syndrome called preeclampsia. Preeclampsia, which is also characterized by the presence of protein in the urine, puts both mom and baby at risk for serious health complications, such as life-threatening seizures. 

“Preeclampsia is a common complication of pregnancy,” says Antonio Sison, MD, FACOG, Medical Director, Comprehensive OB/GYN Care of Princeton, board certified OB/ GYN. “High blood pressure is definitely something all pregnant women should discuss with their healthcare providers.” 

Women who are at higher risk for preeclampsia need to be especially vigilant about monitoring their blood  pressure, Dr. Sison says. This includes women who are pregnant for the first time; women who had high blood pressure or kidney disease before pregnancy; women who smoke; and women who are carrying multiple babies. 

What is Preeclampsia?
Blood pressure measures how hard blood pushes against the walls of your arteries. A blood pressure above 140 (systolic, while the heart is pumping) over 90 (diastolic, while the heart is at rest) is considered high for a pregnant woman. Preeclampsia is diagnosed if protein is also detected during a urine test. 

Preeclampsia affects 5 to 8 percent of all pregnancies, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation. However, some estimates show as many as 1 in 5 women may experience high blood pressure during pregnancy, Dr. Sison says. 

Preeclampsia can be accompanied by symptoms such as swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and blurred vision—but often there are no obvious symptoms. It is most often diagnosed during the third trimester of pregnancy. 

Without treatment, the condition can slow the growth of a baby, and it puts the mother at risk for serious health problems, including seizures known as eclampsia. 

Treating Preeclampsia
The cause of preeclampsia is not known, and the only treatment is delivery of the baby. Supportive therapy often involves blood pressure medication and close monitoring of the health of the mom and baby. 

“The golden rule is to stabilize blood pressure, normally with blood pressure medication, monitor protein in the urine and make a decision at some point about whether to induce labor,” Dr. Sison says. “Our goal is to extend the pregnancy as long as safely possible so the baby has more time to mature.” 

Some women may also benefit from bed rest or inpatient monitoring in the hospital, Dr. Sison says. 

To find an OB/GYN affiliated with Princeton HealthCare System, please call 1.800.FINDADR (1.800.346.3237) or visit www.princetonhcs.org.