Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can affect any person at any age. If caught early enough, it can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes.
For women who are pregnant, though, hypertension puts them and their babies at high risk and requires prompt medical attention.
Board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Hany H Ahmed and his staff specialize in high-risk pregnancies, including those accompanied by hypertension. They provide additional care and monitoring before, during, and after delivery to ensure you and your baby are safe and healthy.
What is high blood pressure?
Your blood pressure is the force your blood exerts on the artery walls, and it’s represented by two numbers, each measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
The top number, systolic pressure, is the force of the blood as your heart beats, pushing it out into the arteries. The bottom number, diastolic pressure, is the force of the blood between heartbeats. A blood pressure reading is considered normal if it’s 120/80 or lower.
Pressure that becomes too high can damage blood vessels and lead to serious complications, including heart disease and stroke. That’s why it’s so important to get tested often.
Most pharmacies have blood pressure cuffs, but it’s a good idea to keep up with your doctor’s appointments so your blood pressure can be evaluated formally.
The two types of pregnancy-related high blood pressure
High blood pressure can manifest in two ways in pregnant women.
This form is usually diagnosed after 20 weeks of pregnancy or close to your delivery date, and it generally goes away after you give birth. However, some women who develop gestational hypertension have a higher risk of developing chronic hypertension in the future.
This form of hypertension also is diagnosed after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But in addition to high blood pressure, which is higher than 140/90 mmHg, women with preeclampsia also have protein in their urine, a sign of kidney dysfunction.
Preeclampsia stresses the heart and other organs, can affect the blood supply to the placenta, impair liver and kidney function, and/or cause fluid to build up in your lungs.
The exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown, but it’s believed to stem from a problem with the health of the placenta. If the blood supply to the placenta is decreased, it can starve the developing fetus of essential oxygen and nutrients, endangering both the fetus and mother.
Many women with preeclampsia don’t have any symptoms, and their first indication of a problem is higher-than-normal blood pressure and protein in the urine. For those who develop symptoms, they may include:
- Blurry vision
- Dark spots in your vision
- Light sensitivity
- Right-side abdominal pain
- Swelling in your hands and face (edema)
- Shortness of breath
Severe preeclampsia may include symptoms like:
- Hypertensive emergency (160/110 mmHg or higher)
- Decreased kidney or liver function
- Fluid in the lungs
- Low blood platelet levels
- Decreased urine production
If you have severe symptoms, Dr. Ahmed may admit you to the hospital for closer observation or schedule delivery as soon as possible. He may also give you medication for high blood pressure or a drug to help the fetus' lungs develop before delivery.
Some women with preeclampsia experience seizures, a condition called eclampsia. This is a medical emergency and needs to be treated ASAP.
If you have hypertension and plan to become pregnant, or if you’re already pregnant, it’s important to keep your prenatal appointments with Dr. Ahmed so he can monitor your condition and ensure both you and your baby are safe and healthy.
To learn more, or to schedule, call our office or book online.