Hypertension During Pregnancy: Is it Common?

What to know about hypertension during pregnancy

Your blood pressure is one of the things that your doctor will monitor if you are pregnant. 

The purpose is to look out for the tell tale sign of high blood pressure during pregnancy, which is blood pressure rising to higher than 140/90 mmHg. About 5% to 10% of all pregnant women are diagnosed with hypertension during pregnancy.

While most cases are typically mild, if the condition is not properly addressed, it can turn to severe and may cause serious risks for both the mother and the baby.


There are several types of hypertension that can be diagnosed during a woman's pregnancy. Gestational hypertension and chronic hypertension are more common and less risky, and are usually diagnosed before the 20th week of pregnancy. Gestational hypertension is a condition that merely occurs without any particular causes known, although women who experience this are likely to develop chronic hypertension later on in life. 

Chronic hypertension, meanwhile, is a condition that the pregnant woman may already have had even before getting pregnant, and also one that may persist even after labor.

Pregnant woman holding a glass of milk
Gestational and chronic hypertension, if not taken care of, may develop into pre-eclampsia after the 20th week of pregnancy. Also commonly referred to as pregnancy-induced hypertension or PIH, the condition can adversely affect the mother's vital organs like the kidney, liver and the brain, as well as the placenta. It is the leading cause of fetal complications such as premature birth, low birth weight and stillbirth, in worst cases.

Preeclampsia can also develop into eclampsia, a condition that causes seizures and sometimes coma, and can be fatal. 


Aside from high blood pressure, other more obvious symptoms of hypertension during pregnancy include:

 - Severe headaches
 - Blurring of vision or having spots before the eyes
 - Heartburn
 - Upper abdominal pains
 - Swelling that could result in rapid weight gain
 - Fetal distress, including decreased movement of the fetus.

Some risk factors

So far, there are no known causes of high blood pressure during pregnancy, but some women are found to be more prone to the condition. The risk factors include:

- First pregnancy under the age of 17 or over the age of 35
- A history of high blood pressure or hypertension in the family
- Pregnancy with two or more babies (twins, triplets, etc.)
- Being overweight
- Smoking before or during pregnancy
- Poor nutrition or prenatal care
- Other chronic health problems like diabetes or heart disease.

Recommended treatment

The most common treatment advised by doctors for mild high blood pressure during pregnancy is simple bed rest. For more serious cases, a physician may prescribe antihypertensive medication that is safe for expectant and lactating mothers. To prevent the severity of the condition, a doctor may also induce labor. In most cases, the patient’s blood pressure goes back to normal after giving birth.

For the part of the pregnant mother diagnosed with hypertension, taking care of one’s self is still the best way to avoid any complications associated with this condition. Aside from getting regular doctor’s checkups and proper nutrition, the patient should also avoid salty food, all of which can further raise blood pressure.


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