High blood pressure is a condition that can lead to dangerous complications while you are pregnant, and it’s especially concerning for women who have been diagnosed with chronic hypertension before the pregnancy or develop hypertension before reaching 20 weeks of pregnancy.
High blood pressure during pregnancy can be a sign of preeclampsia which is a very serious complication of pregnancy. Hypertension can worsen during pregnancy and lead to other complications such as kidney or liver problems, stroke or seizures. Your obstetrician will always closely monitor your blood pressure and will give you suggestions for managing your blood pressure while you are pregnant.
How High is Too High?
High blood pressure means that as blood pushes against the walls of your blood vessels, the force is too high on a consistent basis. When you have hypertension, your blood pressure is consistently elevated, meaning the heart and blood vessels are working harder and less efficiently.
Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg. Stage one of hypertension means that the top number of your blood pressure reading is between 130 and 139, while the bottom number is 80 to 89. In stage two, the top number is 140 or higher, and the bottom number is 90 or higher. Anything over 180/120 is considered hypertensive.
Taking Charge of Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is sometimes brought on by unhealthy habits. There are certain lifestyle changes you can make that may help to reduce blood pressure. If you are a smoker, it is a great time to quit, and your doctor will be happy to help you work toward that. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and illicit drugs, and discuss any over-the-counter medicines with your OBGYN before taking them.
While you will gain weight during your pregnancy, take care not to gain too much. Keeping all your prenatal appointments will help you to keep a close eye on your weight gain and your blood pressure and will allow your obstetrician to continue to monitor your health as well as the health of your baby.
Your daily food choices should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Use saturated fats and cholesterol sparingly, and limit the amount of fried food that you eat. Avoid salt and high sodium foods and try not to eat much fast food. Include foods that are high in potassium to help balance out the negative effects of salt. These foods include bananas, baked potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, and spinach.
Try to include some form of physical activity during your pregnancy if possible. Discuss what your options are for physical activity with your OBGYN. If you have developed preeclampsia, your doctor may recommend bed rest.
Take Blood Pressure Medications
If you are already being treated for hypertension before your pregnancy or if medication has been prescribed during your pregnancy, be sure to take it as prescribed. Your doctor will be monitoring your medication and will prescribe the best medication for you at the safest dose during pregnancy.
Learn Relaxation Techniques
Stress and tension can make high blood pressure get worse, so learn ways to calm feelings of anxiety during your pregnancy. Take time to sit quietly and breathe deeply. Learning breathing techniques can help reduce feelings of stress.
When you have hypertension, your pregnancy will be classified as high risk because of the potential for serious complications. It is important to do whatever you can to make healthy choices and to take good care of yourself during your pregnancy. Taking care of your own health is the best way to take care of your unborn child.