Bringing a baby into the world is a wonderful thing – yet your body can undergo some fairly dramatic changes during pregnancy. Not surprisingly, your blood pressure can also be affected.
While women with high blood pressure can still deliver healthy, happy babies, there are a few important things you should know if your blood pressure is high.
What is ‘Blood Pressure’ Exactly?
Blood pressure refers to the pressure at which blood is pumped throughout your body. It is measured in two ways: the rate at which your heart beats (systolic blood pressure) and the rate in between beats (diastolic blood pressure).
While everyone is different, your blood pressure is usually considered high if the systolic rate is above 140 or if the diastolic rate is greater than 90.
Blood Pressure & Pregnancy
Fluctuating blood pressure during pregnancy is normal.
When you become pregnant, your body produces the hormone Progesterone. This relaxes the walls of your blood vessels. Consequently, many women experience a gradual lowering of their blood pressure during the first and second trimesters. This is then followed by a slow return to normal levels towards the end of the pregnancy.
- However, for some women, their blood pressure may not return to normal as the pregnancy progresses; it can remain low or it can become very high
- Women who have high blood pressure to begin with will often continue to have high blood pressure throughout their pregnancy
- Some women will also experience a marked increase in their blood pressure following the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. This is known as gestational hypertension. While this usually isn’t a serious concern, it will often require monitoring and treatment
How to Reduce High Blood Pressure
While there is no ‘cure’ for high blood pressure, there are some ways in which you can lower your blood pressure, both during pregnancy and/or before you decide to try for a baby:
- Reduce your salt intake
- Exercise regularly
- Lower your stress levels whenever possible
- Take any medications your doctor may prescribe
Complications From High Blood Pressure
It is important to remember that women with high blood pressure can still deliver healthy babies. However, having a high blood pressure during pregnancy is not ideal. In some instances, complications from high blood pressure can include low birth weight, premature birth, placental abruption (which can limit the amount of blood and oxygen flowing to your baby), hypertension and preeclampsia.
Let’s take a closer look at preeclampsia:
Preeclampsia – What is it?
Preeclampsia is a condition that develops during pregnancy. The two main warning signs of preeclampsia are high blood pressure and protein in your urine, both of which should be measured regularly by your doctor.
Although it is not known exactly what causes preeclampsia, the condition will often affect the placenta and can therefore deprive a growing baby of the nutrients and oxygen it needs. For mothers, preeclampsia can also affect the brain, kidneys and liver.
Women with chronic hypertension, obesity, a family history of preeclampsia, diabetes and kidney disease are often at a higher risk of preeclampsia. First-time mothers and women carrying multiple foetuses can also be at risk of developing preeclampsia.
If you are diagnosed with preeclampsia, you can still protect your baby, however, the proper treatment will be vital.
The Importance of Check-ups
Having regular check-ups throughout your pregnancy makes it easy for your doctor to keep an eye on all aspects of your health. These check-ups are a particularly important way to monitor your blood pressure and ensure you and your baby are not being affected by the changing pressure in your blood.
If you do develop high blood pressure or a more serious condition, regular check-ups will also ensure that you can obtain the best care and treatment possible.
Dr. Matthew Wilson is an experienced gynaecologist based at the Norwest Private Hospital.
Book your appointment with Dr. Wilson here or phone 02 9680 9669.