Is high blood pressure during pregnancy dangerous?

While it’s common for pregnant women to have high blood pressure during pregnancy, it can be dangerous for both mom and the unborn baby if the condition is not monitored closely. Women who have chronic hypertension (when you already had high blood pressure before pregnancy, or if you were diagnosed with high blood pressure in the first 20 weeks of your pregnancy), can develop pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. If not caught early and treated, pre-eclampsia can be potentially fatal for both mom and baby.

What causes high blood pressure during pregnancy?

Anyone can develop high blood pressure during pregnancy, but Dr Vash Mungal-Singh, a consultant Haematopathologistat at Lancet Laboratories in Cape Town says you’re at an increased risk if:

  • You had high blood pressure during a previous pregnancy
  • You’re overweight
  • You’re younger than 20 or over 40
  • You have diabetes or other chronic illnesses
  • You’re expecting multiples.

She says pregnant women who fall in any of the above categories should call their doctor or clinic immediately if you experience severe headaches and visual disturbances.

How will I know if I have high blood pressure?

Monitoring your blood pressure is an important part of prenatal care. So, it’s really important to attend all your doctor’s visits when you find out you’re expecting.

What can I do to lower my blood pressure?

If your high blood pressure is caused by a medical condition, it’s important to ask your doctor what medications are safe to use during pregnancy. However, if you have gestational hypertension, you can try these natural tips to lower your blood pressure:

  • Cut out salt from your diet and use other spices like cumin, fresh herbs and lemon pepper.
  • Avoid processed foods and fast foods as these are often high in sodium (salt).
  • Studies have shown that including more whole grains in your diet can help reduce hypertension.
  • Stress less. This is easier said than done – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, but try to keep your stress levels as low as possible by eliminating things that trigger anxiety.
  • Try and exercise for 30 minutes every day. Exercise will relieve stress, increase blood circulation and lower your blood pressure. If you don’t usually exercise, do something easy like going for a walk.
  • Don’t smoke or drink. Both alcohol and cigarette smoke can lead to high blood pressure.
  • Watch your weight. Yes, it’s natural to gain weight during pregnancy, but you also shouldn’t gain too much as these will also increase your blood pressure.

ALSO SEE: Pregnancy weight gain: What’s healthy for you?

How will my high blood pressure affect my baby?

If your high blood pressure is not picked up, or treated, it can increase the risk of placental abruption (this is when your placenta separates from your uterus too early – before your baby is ready to be born), preterm labour, gestational diabetes or stillbirth.

However, if your doctor knows that you have high blood pressure, both you and your baby will be closely monitored during your pregnancy and labour.

*Additional resources: Mayo Clinic, Pregnancy Birth & Baby

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