Gestational Hypertension and Preeclampsia
During your prenatal check-ups, you’ll quickly become accustomed to having your blood pressure checked and in certain offices, a urine sample. While these activities seem routine, they are critical to your health and the health of your baby.
What is Gestational Hypertension?
After establishing a baseline, which is just the medical term for determining what your typical blood pressure is, of your blood pressure at your early appointments, your practitioner is going to watch those numbers with a careful eye. If you had hypertension before pregnancy, your practitioner will develop a plan and monitor your treatment. When a woman experiences high blood pressure after the 20th week of her pregnancy, it’s known as gestational hypertension.
This usually means that your blood pressure is >140/>90, and if it’s >160/>110 or if you have “severe features” (keep reading), you’ll have entered the severe category, and intervention may be needed. The good news is that gestational hypertension generally goes away after the birth of the baby or within the first few months.
What Else is Being Monitored?
As the months move along, peeing in the cup can be something of a comical challenge; however, it’s a critical sample. If you’re experiencing gestational hypertension, your practitioner checks your urine for an excess of protein, which can be an indicator of preeclampsia. You may also have to give a blood sample to monitor your platelets and kidney or liver function.
Usually presented during the second and third trimester, preeclampsia can be a dangerous condition posing issues to both mom and baby’s health, causing problems with moms’ liver, kidneys, blood, heart, eyes, and nervous system or issues with baby’s growth. Fortunately, your practitioner can advise you every step of the way.
We still don’t completely understand what causes gestational hypertension and preeclampsia but we do know some of the risk factors. If you have already had gestational hypertension or preeclampsia or if this is your first pregnancy, you do have a higher risk of this diagnosis. Other factors include diabetes, chronic kidney disease and some autoimmune disorders, if you’re carrying more than one baby, if you have a family history or if you are of “advanced maternal age” (that is only 35). The bottom line is that there is most likely a combination of factors that contribute to the causes but we’re just not sure exactly what the cause is!
The Good News is You’re In Good Hands!
Your practitioner is well versed in gestational issues like diabetes, hypertension, and even preeclampsia. They can keep an eye on you with urine tests, having labs drawn, or frequent ultrasounds and non-stress tests to keep a close eye on your health and that of your baby. They may present you with some dietary or medications to help control symptoms.
What to Look For:
If you are worried about gestational hypertension, education is the balm you need. Being informed means being prepared, and can go a long way to easing those nerves and worries.
Some symptoms to look out for are:
- Headache (new or doesn’t go away when you try your typical treatment)
- Changes in vision
- Abdominal pain, especially in the upper right quadrant
- New onset nausea/vomiting
- Significant swelling in the hands, face, and ankles
- If you aren’t feeling baby move as much as usual
If you have any of those signs, call your practitioner immediately.
Do you have gestational hypertension? What can you do now?
Talk with your practitioner about your options. They may ask you to modify your activities at work or cut back on strenuous exercise. They may suggest monitoring your blood pressure at home, prescribe medications, or have you come in for appointments more frequently.
In some situations, your practitioner may even advise an early delivery to ensure both mom and baby’s health and well-being. There are a lot of factors to consider but your practitioner will help you understand your options and the risks and benefits. Even though hypertension may seem scary, it’s important to remember that many women with this condition have healthy pregnancies and births.