Even if you consider yourself healthy, when you become pregnant you must undergo frequent medical exams. Not only do your OB/GYNs monitor your developing fetus’s health, they monitor your own health, too.
One of the most important parameters of maternal health is your blood pressure. Having normal blood pressure is always important, but becomes essential once you’re pregnant. If you already have high blood pressure, or develop it during pregnancy, your pregnancy is then considered “high risk.”
It’s common to develop hypertension during pregnancy. In fact, in the United States, hypertension occurs in one out of every 12-17 pregnancies among women aged 20-44.
At Florida Woman Care of Jacksonville, our expert OB/GYNs, Daniel McDyer, MD, FACOG, and Julian Stephen Suhrer, MD, help you and your baby stay healthy so that you can have a normal, uneventful delivery. If your blood pressure rises too high, they may send you home with a blood pressure monitor so you can alert them to changes.
Why is blood pressure such an important factor for a healthy pregnancy and delivery? Following is a brief breakdown.
What is high blood pressure?
Blood pressure refers to the amount of force that blood exerts on your arterial walls as your blood circulates through your body. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a situation in which the pressure on the walls of your arteries becomes so high that it endangers your health.
Blood pressure is defined by two numbers: systolic pressure (i.e., the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats) and diastolic pressure (i.e., the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats).
Your blood pressure is represented by systolic pressure over diastolic pressure. For instance, blood pressure that’s 120 systolic over 80 diastolic is written as “120/80 mm Hg.”
- Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg
- Elevated (i.e., at risk) is 120–129 mm Hg systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic
- Stage 1 hypertension is 130-139 mm Hg systolic or 80-89 mm Hg diastolic
- Stage 2 hypertension is 140 mm Hg systolic or more or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg
You won’t notice any changes if your blood pressure progresses from normal to hypertensive.
How to tell if you have high blood pressure
You can’t really tell if you have high blood pressure or not. Hypertension is often referred to as the “silent killer” because it doesn’t have any symptoms.
The lack of symptoms is why it’s so important that your doctor monitor you for hypertension throughout your pregnancy. If your blood pressure starts to rise, they can take actions to help keep it as low as possible for your and your baby’s health.
How hypertension affects pregnancy
Pre-existing hypertension and hypertension that develops during pregnancy places you in the “high risk” category. Your doctor must monitor your health — and your blood pressure — more closely and more often to ensure that neither you nor your baby are in danger.
When you have hypertension during pregnancy, it can affect your fetus’s health in a variety of ways. Some dangers include:
- Decreased blood flow to placenta
- Placenta separates from uterus before delivery
- Fetal growth is suppressed
- Damage to mother’s vital organs
- Premature delivery
You’re also more at risk for developing cardiovascular disease later in life, especially if your hypertension progressed to a condition known as preeclampsia.
Types of hypertension during pregnancy
The different types of hypertension that occur during pregnancy are:
Chronic hypertension either pre-exists before pregnancy or develops during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia
This condition occurs when you have chronic hypertension that gets worse during pregnancy. You may also have protein in your urine or other complications.
If you don’t develop high blood pressure until after your 20th week of pregnancy, you have gestational hypertension. You shouldn’t have any excess protein in your urine or signs of organ damage. However, without treatment gestational hypertension may progress to preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia may occur if hypertension develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy. This condition is associated with other kinds of damage, such as kidney, liver, or brain damage.
Preeclampsia is a highly dangerous condition for both mother and baby. Either one could die or suffer grave damage to their organs.
Be sure you and your baby stay safe by letting us monitor your blood pressure and other vital signs during pregnancy at one of our two Jacksonville, Florida offices. Contact our supportive team by phone or online appointment form today.