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Pregnancy Induced Hypertension

Pregnancy Induced Hypertension explains how high blood pressure in pregnancy will affect you and your baby. Find out when it can pose a risk to your baby and what can be done.

High blood pressure and Pregnancy

Hypertension in pregnancy is an increase in blood pressure. It can be mild or severe, and there may be no, few or many symptoms including frontal headaches, visual disturbances, and vomitting.

Swollen ankles and legs caused by water retention (including face, hands and feet swelling) may also occur. A High blood pressure pregnancy can happen at any time, but it is more likely to occur near term. It is more common in women having their first baby, especially if they are over 35, and also in women having more than one baby.

Please monitor your weight, as gaining a lot of weight suddenly may indicate the onset of Preeclampsia.

Pregnancy and High blood pressure is always looked for in antenatal visits because it may herald Preeclampsia in pregnancy.

Cause of Pregnancy Induced Hypertension

The cause of hypertension in pregnancy is not fully understood. In some women, cells from the placenta produce chemicals called vasoconstrictors that may cause the blood vessels to constrict. This may cause the blood pressure to rise and the kidneys to retain sodium, leading to water retention.

Treatment for Hypertension in Pregnancy

If you suffered from high blood pressure before you were pregnant, tell your doctor. Keep an eye on your weight. Always report persistent headaches and nausea.

Your doctor will test your blood pressure and urine, and look for any swelling or oedema of your hands, face and ankles at each antenatal visit. Your doctor will almost certainly increase the frequency of your antenatal visits.

If your blood pressure goes up at any stage of your pregnancy, you will be advised to stay in bed and rest.

If the rise is severe, you will be admitted to hospital, where you can be monitored continuously. If the baby appears to be suffering, labour may be induced or you may have a Caesarean section. Your blood pressure will return to normal once the baby has been born.

Risk to Baby

Pregnancy Induced Hypertension can slow the baby's growth rate, owing to a reduced blood flow to the uterus. The baby may also be short of oxygen. Both these factors may lead to low birth weight. See Preeclampsia during pregnancy.

There is a more severe form called eclampsia which can be life threatening. However, this is very rare in the west, owing to excellent antenatal care that spots the signs of preeclampsia early.


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