Hello. This is Hypertension Prevention Tuesdays! Let’s talk about high blood pressure during pregnancy. Some women have high blood pressure during pregnancy. This can put the mother and her baby at risk for problems during the pregnancy. High blood pressure can also cause problems during and after delivery. The good news is that high blood pressure is preventable and treatable.
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is very common. In the United States, high blood pressure happens in 1 in every 12 to 17 pregnancies among women ages 20 to 44.
High blood pressure in pregnancy has become more common. However, with good blood pressure control, you and your baby are more likely to stay healthy.
The most important thing to do is talk with your health care team about any blood pressure problems so you can get the right treatment and control your blood pressure—before you get pregnant. Getting treatment for high blood pressure is important before, during, and after pregnancy.
What are high blood pressure complications during pregnancy?
Complications from high blood pressure for the mother and infant can include the following:
- For the mother: preeclampsiaexternal icon, eclampsiaexternal icon, stroke, the need for labor induction (giving medicine to start labor to give birth), and placental abruption (the placenta separating from the wall of the uterus).
- For the baby: preterm delivery (birth that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and low birth weight (when a baby is born weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces). The mother’s high blood pressure makes it more difficult for the baby to get enough oxygen and nutrients to grow, so the mother may have to deliver the baby early.
What should I do if I have high blood pressure before, during, or after pregnancy?
- Make a plan for pregnancy and talk with your doctor or health care team about the following:
- Any health problems you have or had and any medicines you are taking. If you are planning to become pregnant, talk to your doctor. Your doctor or health care team can help you find medicines that are safe to take during pregnancy.
- Ways to keep a healthy weight through healthy eating and regular physical activity.
- Get early and regular prenatal careexternal icon. Go to every appointment with your doctor or health care professional.
- Talk to your doctor about any medicines you take and which ones are safe. Do not stop or start taking any type of medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, without first talking with your doctor.
- Keep track of your blood pressure at home with a home blood pressure monitorexternal icon. Contact your doctor if your blood pressure is higher than usual or if you have symptoms of preeclampsia. Talk to your doctor or insurance company about getting a home monitor.
- Continue to choose healthy foods and keep a healthy weight.
- Pay attention to how you feel after you give birth. If you had high blood pressure during pregnancy, you have a higher risk for stroke and other problems after delivery. Tell your doctor or call 9-1-1 right away if you have symptoms of preeclampsia after delivery. You might need emergency medical care.
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I’m excited to talk about this topic today because not only do I truly believe that you have the power to reverse heart disease and lower high blood pressure to improve your health, but the science also agrees! You can adopt healthy lifestyle practices that improve your health and enrich your life, which can in turn improve the lives of those close to you. You have the power to break the cycle of these chronic diseases so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
As you may already know, I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve blood pressure and reverse heart disease. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Tools to Improve Heart Health
Blood Pressure Monitoring
Since weight management is very important in blood pressure control, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor.
Remember, healthy lifestyle behaviors–like eating a whole-foods plant-based diet that is low in sodium, being physically active, and stress management are the best ways to prevent and control high blood pressure. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use.
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PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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