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High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy – Risk, Causes & Preventive Measures

While you are pregnant, your body goes through various physiological and hormonal changes, which may be internal as well as external. With so many changes happening, it is possible that you may contract some health problem, which could intensify your discomfort during pregnancy, and you may need medical care.

One such problem is concerning blood pressure. The physiological and hormonal changes can either lead to high or low blood pressure. However, you shouldn’t be too worried. Consult your doctor and follow all her instructions. In the meanwhile, read our post and get more information about the issues of blood pressure during pregnancy.

Your Changing Blood Pressure While You Are Pregnant:

When you are pregnant, it is normal for your blood pressure levels to fluctuate than what they normally are.

  • During pregnancy, your body releases the hormone progesterone, which relaxes the walls of your blood vessels. As a result, you will notice a decrease in the levels of your blood pressure during your first as well as your second trimester. If your blood pressure tends to dip more than normal, you may feel dizzy when you stand up suddenly.
  • While you are in the middle part of your pregnancy, your blood pressure will be at its lowest. Don’t worry, though, as it will slowly begin rising once you cross your 24th week of pregnancy. By the time you reach this stage, your body will already have produced about one-liter extra blood, which will help your heart pump blood to all parts of your body. By the time you reach the final week of your pregnancy, your blood pressure levels will begin to stabilize and will reach to their pre-pregnancy levels.

What Is High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy?

High blood pressure or hypertension is a condition in which the levels of your blood pressure are higher than 140/90 mm Hg. Having high blood pressure during pregnancy can be a cause of concern, as it can lead to certain health complications for you as well as the unborn baby as compared to other pregnant women. If you have earlier been at a risk for high bp during pregnancy, make sure you inform your doctor about the same. Your doctor may put you at a possible risk for high blood pressure while you are pregnant. High blood pressure in pregnancy continues to be one of the biggest risk factors that contribute to the death of the mother during pregnancy or at the time of birth.

Risks Of High Blood Pressure While You Are Pregnant:

Having high bp during pregnancy does come with a few health risks for both you and your baby. Here are a few conditions you should be aware of:

  • If you have high blood pressure and have crossed the 20th week of your pregnancy, it could turn into a condition known as preeclampsia.
  • Preeclampsia is also known in the medical world as toxemia, or hypertension that is induced as a result of pregnancy.
  • It is a serious condition that poses a significant risk of causing damage to many of your vital organs, even your kidneys, and your brain.
  • Sometimes, preeclampsia is also accompanied with seizures, and the condition is known as eclampsia. It is a very serious condition that can also become life threatening.

Your doctor will be able to look for any warning signs of preeclampsia or eclampsia by asking you a few questions as well as conducting a few tests. If you have any swelling in your hands and feet or suffer from frequent headaches, your doctor may suspect high blood pressure as being the cause. You may also have to go for a urine test to check for traces and levels of protein.

A Word Of Caution:

While you are pregnant, your doctor will regularly measure and monitor your blood pressure to check the levels. If, at any time, your blood pressure levels go higher than 140/90 mm Hg, your doctor will immediately place you on alert for high blood pressure.

  • It is a little difficult to diagnose preeclampsia as compared to hypertension. Your doctor will ask you to test for and check the results of your urine test as well as read the levels of your blood pressure. The combination of both the results will help your doctor understand your chances or risk of high blood pressure and preeclampsia.
  • In some cases, your doctor may ask you to go for a non-stress test to check your unborn baby’s health. It will help your doctor understand if your baby is moving the way it should and if your unborn baby has a regular heart rate.
  • Sometimes, your doctor may also suggest you to go for a test that will help to check the levels of your fluids and also determine the health of your unborn baby.

Causes Of High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy:

There are various reasons that could lead to high blood pressure while you are pregnant. Here are a few causes that you should watch out for:

  • Having an unhealthy lifestyle such as lack or very little amount of exercise and not being physically active at all.
  • Being overweight or being obese.
  • Heavy drinking or smoking before you became pregnant or at the time that you conceived.
  • It is important to follow a healthy lifestyle both before you get pregnant and even while you are pregnant, to avoid the risk of high blood pressure.

Preventing High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy:

There are many health complications that are associated with having high levels of blood pressure while you are pregnant. To maintain your unborn baby as well as your health during these precious months, it is important that you take appropriate measures to avoid the same. Here are a few ways in which you can keep your blood pressure in control and avoid it from shooting up to dangerous levels:

1. Check Your Blood Pressure Levels Before You Get Pregnant:

  • If you are planning to start a family or if you are at an age when you may think of getting pregnant, make sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor and get your blood pressure levels tested.
  • You can go to a regular general physician or also have an appointment with your gynecologist, both of whom will be able to give you a correct reading of your blood pressure levels.
  • Ask them if you have the tendency to have high blood pressure and also ask if your current blood pressure levels are at a normal or healthy range.
  • You can also make use of self-measuring kits that are available at most drug stores and will help you measure your blood pressure levels at home. However, it is always better to have it tested by your doctor to be sure that the result is accurate.

5. Do Not Miss Any Prenatal Checkup Appointments:

  • When you are pregnant, it is very important to make sure that you go for each and every prenatal appointment that your doctor has scheduled you for.
  • You may feel that your doctor simply does the same thing over and over again in all these appointments, but it is still very important to be there, as it will help your doctor keep a track of your levels, including the levels of your blood pressure.
  • If you are prone to have high blood pressure or the moment you show the first signs of having high levels of blood pressure, your doctor will be able to spot it at these prenatal checkup appointments. Make sure you are there for all the appointments. In case you are aware beforehand that you will not be able to make it on a particular date, ask your doctor to schedule it a few days earlier or later. In case you do miss an appointment for any reason, call up your doctor and schedule an appointment at the earliest.
  • To keep a constant track of your blood pressure levels, especially if you have high blood pressure levels, you can also buy a home kit that will help you monitor your levels in the comfort of your home. Ask your doctor to teach you how to do it properly and how to check the readings.

2. Cut Down On The Level Of Salt Intake:

  • Sodium can cause a significant increase in your blood pressure levels and is a potential health hazard, especially when you are already pregnant or are trying to get pregnant.
  • Having a lot of salts or having foods that are high in their sodium content will make your blood pressure levels shoot up faster and can be potentially dangerous.
  • If you are in the habit of sprinkling extra salt on your food and also while you are cooking, resist from doing it now. Keep your salt levels at a low instead of adding too much. It may seem difficult at first, and you may not like what you eat, but slowly your taste buds will adjust to the variation, and you will get used to having less amount of salt on a daily basis.
  • To keep it healthy, you can measure your daily salt intake and make sure that you do not have more than the same. In case you do end up having a bit more than you should, you can always make up for it by cutting down on your salt intake while having the next meal. To make it easy, you can measure out a tsp of salt at the start of your day and use only that much for the entire day for your consumption.

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4. Understand About The Medications That You Are Taking:

  • While you are pregnant or while you are trying to conceive, there may be certain medicines that you have to take to keep your health in check. Make sure you inform your doctor about each and every medicine you take or have taken in the near past and also inform them about the dosage and duration that you took it for, or if you are still continuing with the same.
  • There are some medicines that can increase your risk of getting high blood pressure or can interact with other medicines and make you prone to getting high blood pressure. While some medicines, even the over the counter ones, may seem harmless, especially while you are still just trying to conceive, they can increase your chances of being affected by high blood pressure levels.
  • When you know that you are planning to get pregnant, avoid taking any types of medicines without first asking your doctor about it. Even if it is an over the counter medication, make sure you first check about the same with your doctor and ask if it is safe.
  • If you are already suffering from high blood pressure or if you know that there is a history of high blood pressure in your family, you should also mention the same to your doctor and check about the safety of any medicines that you take. If your doctor has placed you on a high risk of high blood pressure, you should follow the same rule too regarding the medicines that you take.
  • It is always better to first get your blood pressure levels under control and then start trying to conceive or get pregnant. However, if you are already pregnant, speak to your doctor about the medicines that you can safely take during your pregnancy that will help to keep your blood pressure levels in check.

3. Start Exercising And Get Physically Active:

  • Exercising and being physically active is very important and you should make sure you start following an active lifestyle even before you get pregnant.
  • Whenever you start planning on having a baby, put a good amount of emphasis on your daily exercise and workouts. Talk to your doctor to understand how much you should exercise before you get pregnant and what will be the best exercises for you to follow.
  • If you are already pregnant, speak to your doctor about the safety of exercising and ask about how much you can exercise. Your doctor will also be able to advise you about the kinds of exercises you can safely perform and those that you should stay away from while you are pregnant.
  • While you may not want to exercise while you are pregnant and may feel very tired or sleepy, it is still important to get up and exercise. It may seem a little difficult initially, but once you get into the habit of exercising, you will soon realize that it is something you will start looking forward to.
  • Not exercising can also make you overweight and obese, a condition that can significantly increase your chances of getting high blood pressure or hypertension.

6. Avoid Smoking And Drinking Alcohol:

  • Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol can cause a spike in your blood pressure levels.
  • If you are already planning to get pregnant, cut down completely on your smoking and alcohol consumption.
  • Also, avoid any secondhand or passive smoking, as it is equally bad for your unborn baby and can have a negative impact on your blood pressure levels.

What Is Low Blood Pressure During Pregnancy?

Just as some women have high levels of blood pressure while they are pregnant, it is also natural to have low levels of blood pressure during pregnancy. Low blood pressure is also known in medical terms as hypotension. Even though the levels can vary from person to person, the levels at which your blood pressure will be considered as low is 90 mm Hg or less in the top of the blood pressure reading or 60 mm Hg or less in the bottom of the blood pressure reading. There are various reasons that could lead to low blood pressure while you are pregnant. Even though it is easily treatable, it is important to understand the reason for your low levels of blood pressure, so that you can be given the right type of treatment.

What Could Cause Low Blood Pressure In Pregnancy?

The level of your blood pressure is a direct result of how much pressure you have in your arteries while your heartbeat is active and is in its resting phase. Here is a look at the why your blood pressure levels can vary:

  • The levels of your blood pressure can have a low and even lower reading even as much as in a short duration of the gap between two heartbeats.
  • The way you are lying down or sitting and the general way in which your body is positioned.
  • Your overall breathing pattern
  • Whether or not you are stressed and your overall levels of stress
  • Any medicines that you are currently taking or have taken in the recent past
  • What you eat and drink through the day and what you had before taking the test
  • In most cases, you will have a lower blood pressure reading at night while it will be higher when you have just woken up in the morning.
  • If you have any heart-related conditions, it could also cause a significant dip in your blood pressure levels.
  • Various thyroid issues such as diabetes, low levels of blood sugar (also known as hypoglycemia), adrenal insufficiency (also known as Addison’s disease).
  • If you are dehydrated, your body will start to lose water fast than it can replenish the same. In some cases, even if you are very mildly dehydrated, it can cause a significant dip in your levels of blood pressure. Some triggers such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever or even too much exercising or getting exhausted can lead to dehydration.

What Are The Risks Of Low Blood Pressure While You Are Pregnant?

While low blood pressure is not as dangerous as having high blood pressure, there are still certain health risks that it poses, especially when you are pregnant. Here are a few things you should watch out for:

  • When you have low blood pressure, you have a higher chance of feeling faint and dizzy, which can make you prone to fall and get hurt. It is an extremely dangerous situation while you are pregnant, as it can hurt both your unborn baby and you and cause internal damage.
  • A severe drop in blood pressure can also reduce the supply of oxygen to your body, as a result of which your body may not be able to carry out various important functions. It is also a very dangerous situation for your unborn baby, as there will be less or no supply of oxygen to your baby and can cause considerable damage to the baby’s brain and heart.

How To Prevent Low Blood Pressure While You Are Pregnant?

It is normal for your blood pressure levels to dip while you are pregnant, but there are some preventive measures you can take to avoid the same. Here are a few things you can follow that will reduce the chances of low blood pressure while you are pregnant:

  • Make sure that you lie down on your left side as much as you can, as it will help to increase the level of blood flow towards your heart
  • Avoid making sudden movements, such as getting up suddenly from a sitting or lying position. Instead, hold on to something and get up very slowly.
  • Break up your meal plan into lots of smaller meals that will keep you eating throughout the day. Avoid having three big meals and instead have six or seven smaller meals, depending on how hungry you are. Also, make sure to have some healthy snacks in between so that you do not feel hunger pangs.
  • Consume lots of water and fluids.

Your blood pressure can go through a lot of fluctuating levels while you are pregnant, but make sure you take the right measures to keep it in check. Speak to your doctor and always discuss the same at your prenatal appointments.

Moms, did you have high or low blood pressure while you were pregnant and what all did your doctor advise you to do? Do share your suggestions to help fellow moms. Leave a comment below.

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