Whether you already had high blood pressure before conceiving or developed it after the fact, you’ll be interested to learn more about the relationship between high blood pressure, pregnancy and preeclampsia.
Q. I have high blood pressure, and I want to have a baby—could it be dangerous?
A. It can be if you don’t receive good prenatal care from an attentive healthcare provider. Make sure to tell your Ob/Gyn about any antihypertensive medication you may be taking. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to a condition known as preeclampsia. Left untreated, preeclampsia can be life threatening to you and your baby.
Q. What is preeclampsia?
A. Preeclampsia—commonly known as toxemia—is a disease of pregnancy characterized by high blood pressure, a swollen face and hands due to water retention and high protein levels in the urine triggered by kidney problems. Preeclampsia usually doesn’t develop until the second or third trimester.
Q. Can I avoid getting preeclampsia if I already have high blood pressure?
A. Your best preventive strategy is to monitor your blood pressure closely. Watch for any signs that your blood pressure is out of control—fluid retention, blurred vision, severe headaches or pain in your upper abdomen—and notify your Ob/Gyn immediately if they appear.
In addition, eating a low-salt diet and lying on your left side when resting—to promote healthy blood flow to the kidneys and uterus—will help prevent preeclampsia.
Q. How is it treated?
A. Dietary changes and bed rest at home are enough to treat mild cases. Your Ob/Gyn will probably want to see you at least twice a week to monitor your condition. Severe cases may require medication or a hospital stay.
Pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia are rarely allowed to go beyond 40 weeks because of increased risk. Your Ob/Gyn will probably schedule delivery as soon as it’s safe.