Impact of High Blood Pressure on Baby During Pregnancy by Dr Lathiesh Kumar Kambham

5 min read

Reviewed by Dr Lathiesh MBBS, MD (Pediatrics)
DM (Neonatology), Lead Neonatology and NICU Services
Aster Women & Children's Hospital
17 years of experience

Dr Lathiesh

Dr. Lathiesh Kumar Kambham is a Neonatologist and Paediatrician with over 12 years of experience. He has a special interest in the management of birth asphyxiated babies and extreme preterms and ha More

Written by Sindhuja Prabhu

Sindhuja Prabhu

Impact of High Blood Pressure on Baby

Our blood pressure changes constantly. It depends on our activity, our food, and just about everything we tend to do in a day. Did you know your blood pressure differs when you are awake, and when asleep? When you are sitting and when you take even a small stroll? If such small changes can make a difference, then what about pregnancy? Does it have any effect on the baby’s health? In this article, we will discuss the impact of high blood pressure on baby during pregnancy.

Gestational hypertension or high blood pressure during pregnancy is not rare but is not something you can treat lightly either. Hypertension in pregnancy can be due to a variety of reasons that we may not even consider. Whatever the reason may be, it is bound to have an impact on the unborn child. Read on to find out how exactly maternal hypertension can affect the fetus.

In This Article

What is High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure is when your blood pressure is consistently higher than normal. It is natural for the blood pressure to increase when you have just completed a strenuous activity, but it will fall back to normal ranges. When this does not happen or if your blood pressure is constantly above the normal range (120/80), it is classified as hypertension or high blood pressure.

As all humans are unique, some people may consistently have slightly higher blood pressure at all times. Taking this into consideration, the American Heart Association Guidelines for Prevention updated its guidelines in 2017 and revised the range to 130/80 to consider it as high blood pressure.

Types of Hypertension During Pregnancy

High blood pressure in pregnancy can be classified into four types based on how it develops in a pregnant woman. They are:

1. Chronic Hypertension

The expecting mother has a pre-existing condition of hypertension before she becomes pregnant or develops it within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

2. Gestational Hypertension

High blood pressure develops after the 20th week of pregnancy. There is no excess protein in the urine nor are there any visible damages to the organs.

3. Preeclampsia

High blood pressure develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The mother might even have elevated levels of protein in her kidneys, indicating damage to the organs.

[Read : Preeclampsia]

4. Chronic Hypertension With Superimposed Preeclampsia

A pre-existing condition of high blood pressure can get worse with pregnancy and lead to preeclampsia, which can affect various organs in the body.

In most cases, hypertension is manageable with a few lifestyle changes and medications.

Top Causes of High Blood Pressure in Pregnant Women

Causes of High Blood Pressure in Pregnant Women

Now, coming to pregnancy, what can cause high blood pressure in women who do not smoke, drink alcohol, or even have a very healthy lifestyle with no such complaints so far?

Some of the possible causes are

1. Obesity or Being Overweight

Weight gain in pregnancy is unavoidable and common. For some women, when the weight increases too much too quickly, it can result in other complications including hypertension.

2. Lack of Physical Activity

Though a pregnant woman can exercise, she may have a few restrictions or might even have to avoid them due to certain complications. Low or complete absence of physical activity can cause many complications in pregnancy.

3. First-Time Pregnancy

Pregnancy causes a lot of changes in the body and its hormones. The first pregnancy is when you can actually know how your body reacts to it. Pregnancy is a strain on the body and some bodies might experience hypertension as a result of this added strain.

4. Family History of Hypertension

If your mother suffered from gestational hypertension or if your parents have hypertension, it could be a genetic issue.

5. Maternal Age

If you are more than 35 years of age, the risk of gestational hypertension is higher.

6. More Than One Child

If you are carrying more than one child, the strain on your body increases and it can lead to hypertension.

7. Medical Issues

Pregnancy as a result of fertility treatments for pre-existing health conditions can result in high blood pressure.

How Does High Blood Pressure Affect Babies During Pregnancy?

Impact of High Blood Pressure on Babies

If you had high blood pressure even before getting pregnant, it can pass on to the baby genetically. The Impact of mother’s high blood pressure can put the baby at a higher risk if not brought under control in the following ways:

1. Placental Abruption

The placenta will detach itself from the uterus, thus causing severe blood loss and preterm delivery. Severe abruption can result in heavy blood loss, which can be dangerous to both mother and baby.

[Read : Placental Abruption]

2. Growth Restriction

High blood pressure might reduce the blood flow to the placenta, which in turn can reduce the nutrients that reach the baby. As a result, it can slow down or restrict the growth of the fetus.

[Read :  Intrauterine Growth Retardation]

3. Low Blood Flow

The blood flow to the baby in the placenta might decrease, which in turn can reduce the oxygen supply to the baby.

4. Organ Injury

When the baby does not get enough nutrients or oxygen it can injure various organs like the brain, eyes, heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, or other organs in the body.

5. Premature Birth

If the complications to the baby or the mother increase due to hypertension, and medicines are unable to help, the doctor might decide to deliver the baby early to prevent the complications, which can quickly become life-threatening.

6. Cardiovascular Diseases

If the mother has preeclampsia during pregnancy, it can increase the risk of heart disease for the baby in the future.

Are There Any Side Effects of High Blood Pressure Medicines on Baby During Pregnancy?

Side Effects of High Blood Pressure Medicines on Baby During Pregnancy

When your blood pressure is consistently high, it can be very dangerous to both you and the baby. Sometimes, just lifestyle changes or eating differently will not suffice. You may have to take medicines despite being pregnant. The natural worry is about the side effects of these medicines on the fetus.

If your hypertension diagnosis happens during the pregnancy, your OBGYN will put you on pregnancy-safe medications. If you had high blood pressure before pregnancy, you need to consult your doctor and change your medication immediately. Not all high blood pressure medicines are safe during pregnancy. So, it is important to change it at the earliest.

Some medications can reduce or sometimes even cut off the blood flow to the placenta, thereby affecting the blood flow to the fetus. This in turn can result in birth defects, underdeveloped organs, or even preterm delivery.

As you can see, the impact of high blood pressure on baby during pregnancy can be far-reaching. High blood pressure during pregnancy needs immediate and constant medical attention. Though you can effectively manage it with medications, it is important to keep close track of the same, to avoid complications or defects in the baby.

Sindhuja Prabhu,M.Sc (Psychology),PGDBM

Sindhuja, a mother of two, is an obsessive mom with a keen interest in psychology, especially child psychology. Her quest for knowledge and way with words led her to become a passionate content writer. She transformed her love for writing into a full-fledged career which incidentally also turned up being the perfect stress buster for the last 5 years.Read more.

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