Everything You Need to Know About Gestational Hypertension and Pre-eclampsia
Have you ever noticed that you have your blood pressure checked at each prenatal visit with your healthcare provider? This is because it is important to monitor for gestational hypertension throughout your pregnancy.
What is Gestational Hypertension?
Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure during pregnancy - Blood pressure that is more than 140/90.
Gestational hypertension is one of the most common pregnancy complications occurring in 5% of all pregnancies and 10% of first pregnancies.
What puts you at risk for Gestational Hypertension?
1. Being younger than age 18 or older than age 40
2. First pregnancies
3. Having a family member (sister or mother) with a history of gestational hypertension
4. Having a personal history of high blood pressure before becoming pregnant
5. Having diabetes prior to or during pregnancy
6. Carrying a multiples pregnancy (i.e., twins)
7. Having a high BMI
What is Pre-eclampsia?
Pre-eclampsia can result from gestational hypertension after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
In addition to high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia is associated with proteins in your urine (the reason why urine samples are regularly collected during your prenatal visits).
The exact reason why it happens is unclear, but many think it’s related to something happening with the maternal and placental blood vessels.
What are symptoms of Pre-eclampsia?
If you have gestational hypertension, it is important to look out for key symptoms that may indicate a higher risk for developing pre-eclampsia including:
o severe headache
o blurry vision
o nausea or vomiting
o shortness of breath
o pain in the right upper area of the abdomen.
Here are 3 important things to look out for to keep your baby as healthy as possible:
o heavy vaginal bleeding
o decreased fetal movement
o signs of preterm labour such as low back pain, cramping, pressure in the pelvis or your water breaks.
What does Preeclampsia mean for you and your baby?
If you are diagnosed before 37 weeks you might expect:
o Regular blood pressure and urine tests
o Frequent laboratory tests
o Instructed to keep an eye on your blood pressure at home
o Asked to perform frequent ‘kick counts’ to assess your baby’s movement
o Scheduled for certain tests to ensure your baby’s well-being such as an ultrasound, nonstress test (NST) and biophysical profile (BPP)
If you are at/after 37 weeks, your provider will talk with you about inducing labour and delivery of your baby since this can be the safer option.
After delivery, usually blood pressure returns to normal within the first 1-2 weeks postpartum and you’re fine!
In rare cases, pre-eclampsia can develop during the postpartum period (postpartum pre-eclampsia). It most often develops within the first 48 hours of postpartum but can happen up to 6 weeks after birth. It has similar symptoms to pre-eclampsia that occurs during pregnancy.
It is important to let your healthcare provider know right away if you are experiencing any pre-eclampsia symptoms.