Gestational Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure in pregnancy.  Hypertensive disorders are the leading causes of maternal death and are very serious issues in pregnancy.  The exact cause of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy is not known at this time, but scientists think that the placenta my implant abnormally on the woman’s uterus (womb) early in pregnancy, but do not show signs of high blood pressure until later in pregnancy.  High blood pressure in pregnancy usually develops any time after the 20th week of pregnancy.  If you have high blood pressure before the 20th week of pregnancy, you might have what is called “chronic hypertension”, or high blood pressure before you became pregnant.  If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure before becoming pregnant, it is important to see a provider before becoming pregnant and early in pregnancy to make sure your blood pressure is within a safe range for pregnancy.

Women who develop high blood pressure in pregnancy are at risk of developing problems with your kidneys, liver, brain and can even cause death.  In addition, your baby is at risk because high blood pressure limits the amount of oxygen and nutrients that your baby receives.

Signs and symptoms of gestational hypertension include:

  • Weight gain or 2 or more pound in one week
  • Swelling of the face, hands, feet or ankles
  • Headaches or seeing stars in your vision
  • Blurry vision
  • Abdominal pain on the right, upper side of your stomach

If you feel you might have any of these symptoms, it is important to contact your provider.

At each prenatal visit, your provider will check your blood pressure and urine for signs of high blood pressure development.  If there are signs if your blood pressure or urine that show you could be developing high blood pressure, you will need further testing and monitoring to make sure the symptoms do not become worse.  There are medications you can take to lower your blood pressure during pregnancy if it becomes too high during pregnancy.  Sometimes, your provider may want to deliver your baby early if the high blood pressure is a threat to you or your baby’s health.  It is important to go to your prenatal visits on time and as scheduled so that small changes in your blood pressure can be detected and treated early.  Usually, your blood pressure will return to normal after delivery of the baby.