Gestational hypertension, also referred to as pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH) is a condition characterized by high blood pressure during pregnancy. Gestational hypertension can lead to a serious condition called preeclampsia, also referred to as toxemia. Hypertension during pregnancy affects about 6-8% of pregnant women.
The different types of hypertension during pregnancy:
High blood pressure can present itself in a few different ways during pregnancy.
The following are the 3 common types of gestational hypertension:
- Chronic Hypertension– Women who have high blood pressure (over 140/90) before pregnancy, early in pregnancy (before 20 weeks), or continue to have it after delivery.
- Gestational Hypertension– High blood pressure that develops after week 20 in pregnancy and goes away after delivery.
- Preeclampsia – Both chronic hypertension and gestational hypertension can lead to this severe condition after week 20 of pregnancy. Symptoms include high blood pressure and protein in the urine. This can lead to serious complications for both mom and baby if not treated quickly.
Who is at risk for Gestational Hypertension?
The following women may have an increased risk of developing gestational hypertension:
- First-time moms
- Women whose sisters and mothers had PIH
- Women carrying multiples
- Women younger than age 20 or older than age 40
- Women who had high blood pressure or kidney disease prior to pregnancy
How do I know if I have Gestational Hypertension?
At each prenatal checkup, your healthcare provider will check your blood pressure and urine levels. Your doctor may also check your kidney and blood-clotting functions, order blood tests, perform an ultrasound scan to check your baby’s growth, and use a Doppler scan to measure the efficiency of blood flow to the placenta.
How is Gestational Hypertension treated?
Treatment depends on how close you are to your due date. If you are close to your due date and the baby is developed enough, your health care provider may want to deliver your baby as soon as possible.
If you have mild hypertension and your baby is not fully developed, your doctor will probably recommend the following:
- Rest, lying on your left side to take the weight of the baby off your major blood vessels.
- Increase prenatal checkups.
- Consume less salt.
- Drink 8 glasses of water a day.
If you have severe hypertension, your doctor may try to treat you with blood pressure medication until you are far enough along to deliver safely.
How does Gestational Hypertension affect my baby?
Hypertension can prevent the placenta from getting enough blood. If the placenta doesn’t get enough blood, your baby gets less oxygen and food. This can result in low birth weight. Most women still can deliver a healthy baby if hypertension is detected and treated early.
If your hypertension is severe, it can lead to preeclmapsia, which can have much more serious affects on mom and baby.
How can I prevent Gestational Hypertension:
Currently, there is no sure way to prevent hypertension. Some contributing factors to high blood pressure can be controlled, while others cannot. Follow your doctor’s instruction about diet and exercise. Some ways you can help prevent gestational hypertension include the following:
- Use salt as needed for taste.
- Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day.
- Increase the amount of protein you take in, and decrease the amount of fried foods and junk food you eat.
- Get enough rest.
- Exercise regularly.
- Elevate your feet several times during the day.
- Avoid drinking alcohol.
- Avoid beverages containing caffeine.
- Your doctor may suggest you take prescribed medicine and additional supplements.
Compiled using information from the following sources:
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/index.htm
Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.com
Medscape; Hypertension and Pregnancy, http://www.emedicine.medscape.com