Preeclampsia and High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the blood pressure on the blood vessels walls each time your heart is compressed (compressed) to pump blood into your body. High blood pressure is also called hypertension. Pre-eclampsia is a medical emergency during pregnancy.
Hypertension can lead to health problems. It can also lead to complications during pregnancy. Women with high blood pressure face high-risk pregnancies that require close monitoring to protect the health of mother and baby.
If you are planning a pregnancy and have high blood pressure, talk to your healthcare provider about your risks. Some women develop high blood pressure during pregnancy, a condition known as gestational hypertension.
What is Pre-eclampsia?
Preeclampsia is a serious blood pressure disorder that can affect all of the organs in a woman’s body. A woman has pre-eclampsia when she has high blood pressure and other signs that her organ systems are not working normally. One of these signs is proteinuria (an abnormal amount of protein in the urine).
A woman with preeclampsia whose condition is worsening will develop other signs and symptoms known as “severe features.”
These include a low number of platelets in the blood, abnormal kidney or liver function, pain over the upper abdomen, changes in vision, fluid in the lungs, or a severe headache. A very high blood pressure reading also is considered a severe feature.
Pre-eclampsia is a multisystemic disease characterized by the development of hypertension after
20 weeks of gestation in a previously normotensive woman, with the presence of proteinuria or, in its
absence, of signs or symptoms indicative of target organ injury.
The clinical signs involve multiple organs, including the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs, brain, and pancreas. These complications can result in maternal and fetal adverse outcomes that can lead to intrauterine growth restriction,
placental hypoperfusion, premature placental disruption or, in most serious situations, loss of
pregnancy and fetal and maternal death.
Preeclampsia sometimes develops without any symptoms. High blood pressure may develop slowly, or it may have a sudden onset. Monitoring your blood pressure is an important part of prenatal care because the first sign of pre-eclampsia is commonly a rise in blood pressure.
Women who have preeclampsia
Blood pressure that exceeds 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or greater — documented on two occasions, at least four hours apart — is abnormal.
- Persistent high blood pressure above 160/100
- Protein in the urine
- Epigastric pain
- Abnormal kidney function
- Ear ringing
- Vision problems
When Does Pre-eclampsia Occur?
It usually occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy, typically in the third trimester. When it occurs before 32 weeks of pregnancy, it is called early-onset pre-eclampsia. It also can occur in the postpartum period.
Sudden weight gain and swelling (edema) — particularly in your face and hands — may occur with pre-eclampsia. But these also occur in many normal pregnancies, so they’re not considered reliable signs of pre-eclampsia.
What steps can I take to help Prevent Pre-eclampsia?
Prevention involves identifying whether you have risk factors for pre-eclampsia and taking steps to address these factors. If you have hypertension and are planning a pregnancy, see your health care professional for a pregnancy check-up to find out whether your hypertension is under control and whether it has affected your health.
If you are overweight, weight loss usually is advised before pregnancy. If you have a medical condition, such as diabetes, it usually is recommended that your condition be well controlled before you become pregnant.