A Complicated Duo: Hypertension and Pregnancy

Hypertension, commonly referred to as high blood pressure, complicates 12-22% of all pregnancies. This complication is also a

Hypertension, commonly referred to as high blood pressure, complicates 12-22% of all pregnancies. This complication is also a major contributor to premature birth.

Just like with all healthcare awareness, there are important numbers to know and information to learn about hypertension and pregnancy. The important number you and your care provider should closely monitor is your blood pressure reading.

Blood pressure is the measurement of the force of pressure against the walls of the arteries of the heart. The reading is a measurement that consists of two numbers. The American Heart Association explains it this way:

The first number measures the maximum pressure of your blood against the walls of your arteries when the heart beats. This number is called systolic blood pressure. The second number measures pressure against the artery wall between heart beats. This number is called diastolic blood pressure.

The blood pressure measurement is spoken, written and read as with the first number over the second number, for example 120/80.

  • If the first number, (systolic) is greater than or equal to 140 mmHg and the second number diastolic is greater than or equal to 90mmHg then this measurement is considered hypertensive.

The other important measurement monitored by your care provider will be protein in your urine. Your provider will monitor your urine for a condition called proteinuria. Proteinuria is the presence of abnormal amounts of protein in the urine.

Traditionally the combination of high blood pressure and proteinuria is diagnosed as a complication of pregnancy called preeclampsia. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist describes preeclampsia as a serious complication of pregnancy that must be monitored closely as it is the leading cause of maternal and fetal death and disease.

In the past, preeclampsia was diagnosed based on a high blood pressure and proteinuria. Today preeclampsia can be diagnosed in cases where proteinuria is not present but other organ function tests are abnormal. Other important tests your care provider will monitor are:

  • Platelet count
  • Liver function
  • Renal function
  • Lung function
  • Signs of cerebral or visual changes

If you have hypertension before becoming pregnant or it surfaces during your pregnancy talk to your care provider about how to accurately track your blood pressure. It is also important to know what medical tests are conducted and the results of each. Understanding how hypertension affects your pregnancy can help improve communication with your provider and help you get the care you need when you need it.





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