Hypertension drugs may be harmful during pregnancy

Pregnancy can sometimes make the body vulnerable, and many women experience side effects, such as morning sickness, increased urination, fatigue and tender, swollen breasts, according to the Mayo Clinic. Another symptom seen in many expectant moms is high blood pressure - or hypertension.

Doctors write more prescriptions

According to a new study published in the American Heart Association's journal Hypertension, healthcare providers prescribe around 5 percent of pregnant women medication to treat high blood pressure. The issue is that new research has indicated that these drugs may be harmful for both the mother and her baby.

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute says that hypertension during pregnancy can increase the likelihood of complications like preeclampsia, which can lead to complications in fetal development. For this reason, practitioners may prescribe drugs to prospective moms with the condition to treat it. However, many of these women give birth to healthy babies.

Researchers, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), analyzed approximately 1 million Medicaid patients. Of the participants, 4.4 percent took an antihypertensive medication. The collected data revealed that not only has the distribution of these drugs become more popular between 2000 and 2006, but almost 7 percent of expectant moms who were prescribed a drug for the condition began taking it for the first time while pregnant. In addition, the study's investigators found that the high blood pressure drugs contained ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers, which may be responsible for causing potentially dangerous side effects during gestation.

"We know from reports that a number of harmful effects can occur from using ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers, especially during the second and third trimester," said Brian Bateman, M.D., lead author of the study. "These drugs can cause poor growth, kidney problems and even death of the newborn. If women are taking one of these blood pressure medications and they become pregnant or plan to do so, they and their doctors should discuss treatment choices during pregnancy."

Stay healthy

According to a study that the NIH conducted in 2010, pregnant women can take a daily calcium supplement to reduce the likelihood of hypertension and preeclampsia. In addition, as general rules, individuals can prevent high blood pressure by maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in physical activity, limiting the amount of salt they consume and keeping stress from getting out of control.

In addition, WebMD reports that, besides calcium, getting the recommended daily allowance of potassium, magnesium, fish oils and eating garlic can also help.

Do you know any women who have hypertension during their pregnancy? Did they take medication for it? Were there any observed complications? If you were faced with the decision to take the drugs even though you knew there could be harmful side effects, what would you do? Leave your answers in the comments section!