Having high blood pressure (hypertension) during pregnancy — whether you develop the condition before or after conception — requires special care. Here’s what you need to know about high blood pressure and pregnancy.
Sometimes high blood pressure is present before pregnancy. In other cases, high blood pressure develops during pregnancy. For example:
Gestational hypertension. Women with gestational hypertension have high blood pressure that develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy. There is no excess protein in the urine or other signs of organ damage. Some women with gestational hypertension eventually develop preeclampsia.
Chronic hypertension. Chronic hypertension is high blood pressure that was present before pregnancy or that occurs before 20 weeks of pregnancy. But because high blood pressure usually doesn’t have symptoms, it might be hard to determine when it began.
High blood pressure during pregnancy poses various risks, including:
Decreased blood flow to the placenta. If the placenta doesn't get enough blood, your baby might receive less oxygen and fewer nutrients. This can lead to slow growth, low birth weight or preterm birth. Prematurity can lead to breathing problems for the baby. Placental abruption. Preeclampsia increases your risk of placental abruption, in which the placenta separates from the inner wall of your uterus before delivery. Severe abruption can cause heavy bleeding and damage to the placenta, which can be life-threatening for both you and your baby. Premature delivery. Sometimes an early delivery is needed to prevent potentially life-threatening complications. Future cardiovascular disease. Having preeclampsia increases your risk of future heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease. The risk is even greater if you've had preeclampsia more than once or you've had a premature birth. To minimize this risk, after delivery try to maintain your ideal weight, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, and don't smoke.