Pre-eclampsia, which is the most severe form of hypertension during pregnancy, is seen in around 10-12% of pregnancies in India. Other less severe forms of hypertension are much more prevalent. Considering there are mild to severe consequences associated with hypertension, it is important to understand what it is and how to prevent it.
Hypertension or high blood pressure (BP) is defined as blood pressure higher than 140/90 mm Hg. Blood pressure, as you would all know, indicates how much pressure blood exerts on the artery walls when heart beats. A higher blood pressure, even in a normal person, increases the risk of cardiac diseases and heart failures. It can also cause stroke and kidney problems.
For a pregnant woman, there is also an added risk due to the fetus inside.
A pregnant woman can get three kinds of hypertension:
Read about Gestational Hypertension here
High blood pressure might mean that placenta is not getting enough blood, which in turn would mean your baby is not getting enough food and oxygen. This can result in slow growth of the baby, or the baby can be born with low birth weight. Placental abruption is another problem that can surface due to pre-eclampsia. Sometimes, premature delivery is the only solution to prevent life threatening complications to both the mother and the baby. Most women with hypertension during pregnancy still go ahead and deliver healthy babies, provided the hypertension was detected and treated early. However, in the case of Pre-eclampsia, there are more serious complications – loss of life being the most severe one – for both mom and the baby. Pre-eclampsia also puts you at the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases that can be detrimental to your health. The risk of heart attack, stroke and other problems associated with high blood pressure doesn’t go away during pregnancy.
Women with following characteristics are at a higher risk of having hypertension during pregnancy:
Whether you have these risk factors or not, ensure you monitor your bP continuously throughout your pregnancy. If you have these risk factors, we would recommend you to invest in a home BP monitor to avoid going to your clinic often.
While there are no sure shot ways to prevent hypertension, there are ways to reduce / avoid some of the contributing factors to it. Smoking is a huge no, and one should stick to a healthy diet to maintain an ideal weight. Some medicines may be prescribed to control high blood pressure during pregnancy, but the risks still stay. It is imperative to make healthy lifestyle choices and stick to what your doctor advises.
Hope you have a happy and safe pregnancy.