Gestational Hypertension

 By: Eric A. Daiter
Hypertension is more commonly known as high blood pressure. About five percent of women who are pregnant will experience gestational hypertension, or pregnancy induced hypertension.

This condition occurs when the pressure in the arteries becomes too high. This can pose a great risk to a pregnant woman and her baby. Fortunately, modern techniques can be very effective in controlling high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Your blood pressure can change all the time. Your doctor will need to get several high readings before determining that you have high blood pressure. The blood pressure cuff will be placed around your arm. Systolic and diastolic pressure will be measured. Systolic pressure refers to the pressure inside your arteries during your heart’s contraction. Diastolic pressure is the pressure reading during the resting stage of your heart, between contractions. You may be diagnosed with high blood pressure if your readings consistently show a systolic pressure of greater than 140 or a diastolic pressure of 90 or higher.

If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure before becoming pregnant or early on in the pregnancy, it is referred to as chronic hypertension. Many women may have problems conceiving if they have chronic high blood pressure. Gestational hypertension refers to high blood pressure that occurs during or after the twentieth week of pregnancy and does not subside. If you are diagnosed with chronic or gestational hypertension, you will need to be under close supervision throughout your pregnancy.

Diet, exercise, heredity and lifestyle can all contribute to high blood pressure. Certain high blood pressure medications should not be taken during pregnancy so be sure that you consult with your physician if you are on high blood pressure medication and become pregnant. High blood pressure greatly increases your chances of having a stroke or a heart attack. Pregnancy can also increase these risks, so it is extremely important to keep your blood pressure under control throughout your pregnancy.

Your doctor will closely monitor your blood pressure and also regularly check for protein in your urine. When gestational hypertension is accompanied by protein in the urine, it is referred to as preeclampsia. Preeclampsia can be a life threatening condition. If you are diagnosed with preeclampsia, you may be required to stay in the hospital or on bed rest for the remainder of your pregnancy.

Symptoms of preeclampsia include swelling of the hands and face, rapid weight gain, blurred vision, headaches, dizziness and abdominal pain on the right side. If you experience any of these symptoms you should see your doctor right away. Hypertension constricts blood vessels to the uterus and can limit the air and blood supply for the fetus. This can cause the baby not to receive the nutrients that it needs to grow and can result in low birth weight and early delivery.
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