Causes of High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

By Carly Kullman

  • Overview

    Causes of High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
    Having a baby is a time for excitement and joy. As you wait nine months for your bundle of joy to arrive, you expect smooth sailing. Sometimes complications arise unexpectedly, leaving you on pins and needles. High blood pressure can cause alarm for any expectant mother and for good reason. Unless you suffer from chronic high blood pressure, it can often arise out of the blue.
  • Blood Pressure Basics

    Blood pressure is a term that applies to all living beings. It is the force through which the blood in your body moves through the arteries. When you go to see a doctor or visit the hospital, blood pressure measurement is a standard part of the visit. Normal blood pressure is considered to be in the 120 over 80 range. Anything that is over that number is considered high, and requires monitoring by a licensed health professional. If a woman is found to have consistent high blood pressure readings, she will be placed in one of three categories: Chronic Hypertensive, Gestational Hypertensive or Pregnancy Induced Hypertensive (PIH).
  • Chronic Hypertension

    Chronic hypertension in pregnant women really has no definitive cause. It may be the result of health factors, lack of exercise or heredity. This condition exists prior to the pregnancy and will be present after as well. The treatment for chronic hypertension may consist of medication as long as it is safe for both the mother and the pregnancy.


  • Gestational Hypertension

    Gestational hypertension means that you only have high blood pressure while you are pregnant. It develops during pregnancy before the 20th week. You will be closely monitored as there is a potential to develop PIH, or pregnancy induced hypertension. There are several reasons that a woman can be diagnosed with this condition. In many cases, it may be hereditary, which means that it runs in the family. Certain health conditions, such as diabetes, obesity or polycystic ovary syndrome can cause the high blood pressure The pregnant woman's immune system may not react to carrying a baby, the man's sperm or the placenta very well, thus causing the body to react. With this sort of hypertension, closer monitoring is required. Medication may be administered in an attempt to control the blood pressure.
  • Pregnancy Induced Hypertension

    PIH is a very extreme form of hypertension that is only found in pregnant women and is considered the final stage of hypertension in this population. PIH usually follows gestational hypertension. It is considered pregnancy induced when the woman is past her 20th week of pregnancy. The blood pressure levels can become so high or so severe that it causes several medical problems not only for the mother but also for the baby. Since this is a severe form of hypertension in pregnant women, the final stage of treatment may be bed rest in the hospital under close supervision until the baby is born or induction of labor.
  • Monitoring

    Prenatal care consists of constant monitoring which includes blood pressure checks. If any problem is noted, the doctor may watch the patient more carefully. If a health care provider notices a pattern of high blood pressure during prenatal visits, she may diagnose the woman as hypertensive. Many heath care providers will also refer to the mother having pre-eclampsia instead of using the term hypertensive. This may require frequent lab work or urine testing. The urine tests will show the health care provider how much protein is in the urine, which is a red flag for someone with high blood pressure.
  • Symptoms

    High blood pressure can cause harm to the mother or the baby if left untreated. While mild elevated blood pressure doesn't pose much in the way of symptoms, very high blood pressure will. Some of the symptoms that a woman may experience while pregnant with high blood pressure are: headaches, blurred vision, sun spots (you see spots just as you would if you looked directly at the sun) and belly pain. These should be reported to the doctor immediately. Women who are preeclamptic may also experience rapid weight gain as well as sudden and extreme swelling of the face, hands or feet.
  • Warning

    If a pregnant woman's blood pressure gets too out of control, a stay in the hospital may be required. This may be until the child is born. In these instances, the baby is often born early, especially if there is any risk posed to the mother or baby. A mother may experience violent seizures due to very high blood pressure. Death is also a concern with high blood pressure; this is why constant close monitoring of blood pressure is crucial during pregnancy.
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