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What Causes High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy? Tips for Expecting Moms to Manage Hypertension

What Causes High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

Several women have high BP when they are pregnant. Every 1 out of 15 pregnant ladies in the United States have hypertension. If the blood pressure is high, it can have adverse effects of the mother and the baby in her womb. It can even lead to complications at the time of delivery and after the delivery. However, high blood pressure can be prevented and treated to ensure that you have a blissful pregnancy. So, what causes high blood pressure during pregnancy and what should you do to keep hypertension at bay?

In this article, we will talk about everything related to chronic hypertension in pregnant women, its risk factors, and how to keep your blood pressure from rising. So, stay tuned till the end if you want to know how to look after your baby and yourself.

Causes of High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

Before we tell you about the symptoms of hypertension and its cure, let’s find out what causes high blood pressure during pregnancy. The common reasons include:

  • being obese or overweight
  • not being agile or physically active
  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • smoking
  • age (being over 35)
  • pregnancy-related hypertension is in the family history
  • carrying more than one child
  • having some autoimmune diseases or diabetes
  • opting for assistive reproductive technology (like IVF/ in vitro fertilization)
  • carrying multiple babies

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure 

There’s a reason why doctors call high blood pressure ‘the silent killer’. Most women who have high BP during their pregnancy don’t even realize it. However, some women notice the following symptoms:

  • pain in the belly
  • swelling
  • the urge to urinate now and then
  • vomiting/ nausea
  • unexplainable weight gain
  • recurring headaches

Even if there aren’t any symptoms, checking your blood pressure every month will be wise.

Types of High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy 

While some women have high BP in the first half of pregnancy, others may have severe high blood pressure and complications from high blood pressure that develop after 20 weeks of being pregnant.

1. Chronic hypertension

If your hypertension existed even before you conceived, this type of hypertension is referred to as chronic hypertension by doctors. Chronic hypertension can also develop during the first 5 months/ 20 weeks of your pregnancy. As high BP does not have too many symptoms, it can be difficult to figure out exactly when and how it started.

2. Gestational hypertension

As opposed to chronic hypertension, gestational hypertension develops after the 20th week of pregnancy. While most people with gestational hypertension deliver healthy babies and do not face any issues, sometimes, gestational hypertension may take the shape of preeclampsia, which is a serious condition.

3. Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is one of the dangerous complications during pregnancy that can be fatal for the baby and the mother if left untreated. It can cause serious damage to important organs like the kidneys and the brain. Protein present in the urine and high BP are two main characteristics of preeclampsia. Some symptoms of preeclampsia are:

  • Sudden swelling in the face and hands
  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Persistent headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting or nausea towards the end of pregnancy

If you experience these symptoms or even a single sign of preeclampsia, you must inform your doctor immediately. The sooner preeclampsia gets detected, the better for you and your baby.

Managing High BP During Pregnancy 

As part of your prenatal care, each time you visit your healthcare provider, they will measure your blood pressure and urine. When the blood pressure reading proves that you have hypertension, there are several things you can do to reduce complications.

  • Don’t wait for the monthly check-ups. Instead, monitor your blood pressure at home daily with the help of a blood pressure monitor. For the reading to be accurate, take the blood pressure at a fixed time daily.
  • Take note of how many times your baby kicks throughout the day.
  • Consult your healthcare provider to find out how much physical activity is recommended.
  • Depending on how high your blood pressure is, your doctor might prescribe medicines that are safe for your little one. Some effective medicines are calcium-channel blockers like nifedipine (to be taken orally) and beta blockers or vasodilators which are generally injected. If you are on oral medications, you must take them daily and don’t try to change the dosage on your own.
  • If your doctor thinks you may develop preeclampsia, you may have to take aspirin.
  • Don’t miss the appointments with your gynecologist to monitor your condition as well as the heart rate and growth rate of the baby. They will perform blood/ urine tests to see that your organs are working fine.

Tracking Blood Pressure 

When it comes to tracking blood pressure, you just need to know the basics. It is expressed in the form of a fraction: the systolic blood pressure is displayed over the diastolic blood pressure. Systolic pressure shows the pressure on your arteries when your heart actively participates in squeezing blood. The diastolic pressure, on the other hand, is a measurement of the BP when the heart is resting.

That being said, now have a look at what doctors consider normal blood pressure for a pregnant woman. As long as the blood pressure does not exceed 120/ 80 mm Hg, there is no need to worry. However, if the pressure is more than 130/ 90 mm Hg, your doctor will give blood pressure medication and suggest some lifestyle changes like limiting the intake of salt and red meat.

Tips to Maintain Normal Blood Pressure During Pregnancy 

For preeclampsia and high blood pressure in pregnancy, you need to take proper medications. Once your blood pressure goes down after taking medications, you can reduce blood pressure in the future by making some lifestyle alterations:

  1. Try to maintain a healthy body weight as obesity increases the chances of chronic hypertension in pregnancy.
  2. Have foods that are rich in potassium as this mineral decreases the ill effects of sodium. Seasonal veggies and fruits are loaded with potassium.
  3. You should not have more than 2,300 mg of sodium in a day. This will not just keep your blood pressure from rising but also promote heart health.
  4. Refrain from drinking alcohol frequently as it adversely impacts your blood pressure, and it also makes blood pressure medicines less effective.
  5. Studies have revealed that smoking too increases blood pressure, So, quit it immediately as it can also cause birth defects in the baby.
  6. Poor quality of sleep is another factor that contributes to high blood pressure. So, pregnant women with high blood pressure must sleep at least 7 hours at night.
  7. To help prevent high blood pressure, you should also take less stress.
  8. Ladies with high blood pressure during their pregnancy should exercise every day.

Even if you do not have gestational hypertension or preeclampsia, these tips are effective for all to have a healthy pregnancy and avoid an increase in blood pressure.

To Sum Up

We may conclude by saying that hypertension deserves special care, especially during pregnancy. So, regardless of whether your high BP was diagnosed before conception or after you discovered you’re expecting, abide by your doctor’s instructions, eat nutritious foods, stay active, and stress less.

Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the main cause of high blood pressure during pregnancy?

Chronic hypertension is high blood pressure and its main cause during pregnancy is related to the blood flow to the placenta. During the first few weeks of pregnancy, new blood vessels keep developing. If the blood does not circulate properly in the placenta, the blood pressure changes drastically.

2. What are the 3 early signs of preeclampsia?

A woman with preeclampsia will experience symptoms like vomiting, swelling of feet, hands, and face, intense headaches, high BP, and difficulty breathing.


The information provided in our articles is based on the research work of esteemed institutions and authors who are experts in their fields.

High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy | cdc.gov

High Blood Pressure – Pregnancy and High Blood Pressure | NHLBI, NIH

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