During pregnancy there are many complications that could possibly affect mother and baby. Two of those are high blood pressure and preeclampsia. Although these two conditions are related there are some differences.
Blood pressure is measured by how hard the blood pushes against the walls of the arteries. If this is too hard the result is high blood pressure. Blood pressure is considered high if the top number is more than 140 mmHg or if the bottom number is more than 90 mmHg. A woman may have high blood pressure before her pregnancy or it may elevate during pregnancy. Preeclampsia is a pregnancy-related problem.
During pregnancy you will need to have checkups more often if you have high blood pressure. One of the reasons for more frequent checkups is to watch for preeclampsia. There is no way to know if someone will develop preeclampsia. In the second trimester a woman’s blood pressure usually drops and then returns to normal in the third trimester. Unfortunately for some, their blood pressure goes very high in the second and/or third trimester and will need to be checked frequently along with the possibility of being treated with medication or being put on bedrest at home or in the hospital where the expectant mother and baby can be closely monitored. Usually the problem goes away after the baby is born. If the mother’s blood pressure is still elevated after the baby is born she may be sent home on medication and receive follow-up care. Usually the use of medication is only needed for a few weeks and the elevated blood pressure returns to normal.
High blood pressure keeps the baby from getting enough blood and oxygen, which could in turn limit the baby’s growth or cause the placenta to pull away from the uterus to soon. It can even lead to stillbirth. Preeclampsia can also keep the baby from getting enough blood and oxygen. For the mother, preeclampsia can harm the liver, kidneys and brain.
High blood pressure usually does not cause symptoms unless it is very high. Then symptoms may include: headaches or shortness of breath or changes in vision. Mild preeclampsia also does not cause symptoms. When preeclampsia becomes more severe symptoms can include: rapid weight gain, swelling of hands and face and even organ trouble and difficulty breathing.
If your blood pressure is elevated your doctor will probably check for protein in your urine, which is a sign of preeclampsia. Blood pressure can be treated with bedrest and/or medicine as I mentioned earlier, but the only cure for preeclampsia is having the baby. Depending on how far along the pregnancy is this could result in a preterm baby. If preeclampsia is not treated it can lead to eclampsia, which causes dangerous seizures in the mother.
Proper prenatal care is a must. Do not miss any prenatal appointments, especially after the 20 week mark so your blood pressure can be monitored along with your weight and urine. It might even be helpful to purchase a blood pressure monitor and check it at home. This way you can let your doctor know how it has been running different times of the day, although at-home monitors are not as reliable. A good prenatal diet is important. This includes a diet of vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, basic food groups and plenty of water. Moderate exercise is also beneficial. Avoiding alcohol, medications not prescribed by a physician and cutting back on processed foods, refined sugars, caffeine is essential.
Be sure to let your doctor know of any conditions or symptoms you might be experiencing such as: swelling, weight gain, headaches, nausea/vomiting, back pain, changes in vision, difficulty breathing, stomach pain and dark urine. Your doctor can access the symptoms and decide if treatment is needed. If you are concerned with any symptoms between visits then of course call your doctor’s office or go the emergency room if they are serious.
I am not a doctor so check with your physician to answer questions and concerns about these conditions, symptoms, diet and exercise during your pregnancy.