Pregnancy and High Blood Pressure

Pregnancy and High Blood Pressure

 

Controlling high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is important when you are pregnant. Hypertension often has no symptoms. You can still feel good with a blood pressure that is dangerously high. There are many reasons why it is important to control your blood pressure for your health and the health of your baby:

  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause the placenta to work improperly. This may lead to having a small baby who is ill. To protect your baby, we will check your baby with special tests during pregnancy.
  • Stroke, heart, lung and kidney problems in the mother can occur if high blood pressure is uncontrolled.

 

Ways to control high blood pressure

  • Get plenty of rest. Rest 1 to 2 hours mid-morning and 1 to 2 hours mid-afternoon. Lying on your side allows your baby to get the most oxygen and nutrients. Taking long rest periods can be difficult, especially if you have small children at home or if you work. Talk with a nurse or social worker for helpful suggestions to get the rest you need.
  • Take your blood pressure at home. Learn to take your own blood pressure at home, so you can follow how you are doing. The nurse will help you to learn this skill.
  • Take medicine prescribed by your doctor or nurse. You may need medicine to control your high blood pressure. 
  • If you already took medicine to control high blood pressure before becoming pregnant, your medicines may need to be changed as pregnancy progresses. Do NOT stop taking your medicine without first talking to your doctor.
  • Eat well-balanced meals that are high in protein. Examples of high-protein foods are meats, fish, eggs, peanut butter, milk and dried beans. 
  • Do NOT add salt to your food. Talk with a dietitian to help you plan nutritious meals and snacks that are high in flavor but low in sodium (salt).
  • Stay connected. Go to all health visits, so we can check on your health and the health of your baby.  

 

Taking medicine to control your blood pressure

Do NOT stop taking blood pressure medicines without first talking to your provider.

  • Medicine is often given to treat high blood pressure. This medicine may cause drowsiness. It may also cause dizziness if you stand up too quickly. Stand up slowly and avoid standing for a long time.
  • Diuretics (water pills) are usually not used during pregnancy.
  • Other medicines may be needed as your pregnancy progresses. Follow your provider's instruction for taking medicine. 

 

Complications of chronic high blood pressure

When you have chronic high blood pressure, there is more chance of developing pregnancy-induced hypertension, also called PIH, preeclampsia or toxemia. You will be checked for signs that PIH may be developing. These signs include:

  • A lot of swelling of your feet, face, eyes or hands
  • An increase in your blood pressure
  • Protein in your urine
  • Low urine output
  • A weight gain greater than two pounds per week

Severe symptoms:

Call your health care provider right away if you notice any of these signs or have other questions.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures (convulsions)
  • Severe headache
  • Blurring of vision or seeing spots
  • Severe heart burn

 

© 2000 – July 25, 2019, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

This handout is for informational purposes only. Talk with your doctor or healthcare team if you have any questions about your care. For more health information, call the Library for Health Information at 614-293-3707 or email: health-info@osu.edu.