Advice Column, Health, Parenting, Pregnancy & Baby

What You Don’t Expect When Expecting – Hypertension

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Embarking on the journey of motherhood should be a pleasurable and memorable experience.  For many women though, pregnancy can be overshadowed by hypertension, also known as high blood pressure.  Uncontrolled high blood pressure prior to pregnancy or high blood pressure developed during pregnancy poses a risk to both mother and unborn baby. I n this article we would like to make all future and expectant moms aware of these dangers and provide you with lifesaving tips on how to prevent high blood pressure from casting a shadow over this momentous time.

High blood pressure can affect an expectant mother in two ways: 

1) She might have existing high blood pressure prior to becoming pregnant, or 2) High blood pressure may develop in the second half of pregnancy.   When high blood pressure is accompanied by protein in the urine, and swollen ankles, fingers and face; it is particularly serious and is called pre-eclampsia. F or both types of high blood pressure in pregnancy, if it is not detected and then controlled, it can cause low birth weight or require early delivery of the baby.   High blood pressure and especially pre-eclampsia can furthermore be very harmful to the mother as well, by causing seizures, damaging the kidneys, liver and brain and increasing the risk of stroke.

The good news is that early detection and control of high blood pressure and close monitoring of the mom and baby can ensure a safe and happy pregnancy.   There are certain factors that can put one at an increased risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy. Factors include high blood pressure during a previous pregnancy, obesity, being under the age of 20 years and over the age of 40 years, having diabetes and other chronic illnesses, and being pregnant with more than one baby.  Women with any of these factors should be especially vigilant.  Severe headaches and visual disturbances are warning signs that require an urgent visit to your doctor or clinic.

How can women with existing high blood pressure prevent problems during pregnancy?

1.Firstly, it is important to control your blood pressure, and speak to your doctor or nurse when thinking about falling pregnant.

2.Discuss with your doctor how high blood pressure might affect you or your baby and how to adapt or change any current blood pressure medication.

3.Continue to monitor blood pressure regularly throughout your pregnancy as advised by your doctor or clinic.

4.Ensure that you are eating healthily, limiting salt intake, being active and avoiding alcohol or tobacco products. In addition, taking calcium supplementation can prevent pre-eclampsia.

How can women be sure not to get high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia during pregnancy?  Regular visits to the doctor or clinic are important to ensure a safe pregnancy. For a healthy pregnancy one should:

1)First and foremost ensure that you are in the best possible health before thinking of falling pregnant; including managing a healthy weight, being physically active and not smoking.

2)Get early and regular care from a doctor.

3)Follow all the doctor’s recommendations.

4)Do what you can to help manage blood pressure. Eat a healthy diet including plenty of fruit and vegetable, daily dairy, and limit intake of salt and salty foods.

5)Take a calcium supplement as advised and directed by your doctor.

High blood pressure has no symptoms or warning signs, therefore checking blood pressure regularly throughout pregnancy and beyond is important to monitor the health and well-being of mom and baby.  We would therefore like to encourage all women to know their numbers by visiting their nearest clinic, GP practice, nearest pharmacy or obstetrician to get their blood pressure checked.

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