Blood pressure usually fluctuates during pregnancy. During the middle part of pregnancy, blood pressure tends to be low. For this reason, it is important to know what your pre-pregnancy or early pregnancy blood pressure readings were.
There are two types of hypertension. The first is chronic hypertension which is long lasting, may require treatment with medications, and affects both men and women. The second is a group of conditions characterized by hypertension that occurs during pregnancy. You may experience only elevated blood pressure, which is called gestational hypertension or you may have preeclampsia which is elevated blood pressure with puffiness or swelling of the hands, feet, or face with or without protein in your urine.
Hypertension during pregnancy may affect the development of your baby. Hypertension causes decreased blood flow to the placenta, which results in less nutrients and oxygen reaching your baby, and growth may be slowed.
There are certain warning signs associated with the worsening of hypertension during pregnancy. A sudden weight gain can be a result of your body retaining fluid because of the effects of high blood pressure on the kidneys. This weight gain is usually accompanied by swelling which is called edema. It is usually most noticeable in the fingers, face, and above the ankles. As a result of improper kidney function, protein may spill into the urine. Severe headaches, blurred vision, and pain in the upper abdomen are also signs that may indicate the progression of hypertension during pregnancy.
Learn the to recognize signs and symptoms hypertensive complications that could result from hypertension during your pregnancy. Your self-assessment of these signs and symptoms is very important. It is your responsibility to pay close attention to your body and know what is "normal" for you. Only by knowing what is "normal" can you recognize what is "abnormal". If you experience any of these signs and symptoms, you should call your doctor/midwife.
The following should help you understand how to recognize possible problems and what to report.
Most women have some swelling of their feet during pregnancy. However, any swelling of the face, hands, or feet early in the morning should be reported to our office.
Each morning, remember to conduct a "self-assessment" by checking the following:
Most headaches are not a symptom of hypertension during pregnancy. Headaches can be caused by stress, too much reading, close-up work, or not eating. However, a headache that is not relieved by simple physician prescribed medicine is a cause for concern. Any severe headache should be reported.
Visual disturbances may also indicate a serious complication of hypertension during pregnancy. A sudden onset of blurry vision or seeing "spots" could signal a problem and your doctor/midwife should be notified immediately.
Pain in the upper right abdominal area can also signal significant complications. With severe prolonged hypertension, your liver can become swollen. Pain in the liver area (upper right abdominal area) should be reported immediately.
Severe pain with or without bleeding from the vagina could indicate a problem. If you experience these symptoms, contact your provider immediately.
Since hypertension during pregnancy may affect both you and your baby, your doctor/midwife may choose to periodically evaluate and/or monitor you and your baby with one or more of the following: