Abnormal Blood Pressure Levels in Pregnancy (2022)

Blood pressure and pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body goes through numerous physical changes to accommodate fetal growth and development. Throughout these nine months, it’s ideal to have a normal blood pressure reading.

Your blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Every time your heart beats, it pumps blood into the arteries, which then carry the blood to the rest of your body. The blood typically moves through the arteries at a certain rate. However, various factors can disrupt the normal rate at which blood flows through the vessels, causing an increase or decrease in pressure. Increased pressure in the arteries can result in an elevated blood pressure reading. Decreased pressure in the arteries can result in a low blood pressure reading.

Blood pressure is recorded as two types of numbers. The systolic number is the top number, which indicates the amount of pressure in the arteries when your heart beats. The diastolic number is the bottom number, which indicates the amount of pressure in the arteries between heartbeats. Your blood pressure naturally rises with each heartbeat and falls when the heart rests in between beats. However, the rapid changes your body goes through during pregnancy can greatly influence these numbers and cause a drastic change in blood pressure.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 mm Hg and below. Readings below 90/60 mm Hg indicate low blood pressure, or hypotension. Readings above 140/90 mm Hg in pregnancy indicate high blood pressure, or hypertension. Hypertension is seen far more often in pregnancy than hypotension. About 10 percent of all pregnancies in the United States are complicated by high blood pressure issues.

An abnormal blood pressure during pregnancy is a cause for concern. Both you and your baby may be at an increased risk of health complications. However, you may be able to prevent problems by attending regular prenatal appointments so your doctor can monitor your blood pressure closely. You may also want to consider learning more about related conditions so you can help manage factors affecting your blood pressure.

How to detect abnormal blood pressure

(Video) High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) During Pregnancy With Dr. Sean Daneshmand | San Diego Health

The AHA defines abnormal blood pressure readings in non-pregnant adults as follows:

  • Elevated blood pressure is a systolic number between 120 and 129 and a diastolic number lower than 80.
  • In stage 1 hypertension, the systolic number is between 130 and 139 or the diastolic number is between 80 and 89.
  • In stage 2 hypertension, the systolic number is 140 or higher or the diastolic number is 90 or higher.
  • In a hypertensive crisis, the systolic number is higher than 180 and/or the diastolic number is higher than 120.

You may not always be able to tell whether your blood pressure is too high or too low. In fact, hypertension and hypotension may not cause noticeable symptoms. If you do experience symptoms, they may include the following:

Symptoms of hypertension

High blood pressure, or hypertension, in pregnancy is usually defined as 140/90 mm Hg or higher. It may cause:

  • flushed skin
  • swelling of the hands or feet
  • headaches
  • shortness of breath
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • changes in vision

Symptoms of hypotension

Low blood pressure, or hypotension, is usually defined as 90/60 mm Hg or less. It may cause:

  • dizziness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • cold, clammy skin
  • blurred vision
  • rapid breathing
  • depression
  • sudden tiredness
  • extreme fatigue

If you suspect you have symptoms of hypertension or hypotension, you should see your doctor right away to help prevent possible complications.

The symptoms of hypertension and hypotension aren’t always present. The best way to know if you have abnormal blood pressure is to take a blood pressure test. Blood pressure tests are often done at regular checkup appointments, and your doctor should perform them throughout your pregnancy.

While these tests are most commonly performed in a medical setting, they can also be done at home. Many local drug stores carry at-home blood pressure monitors that you can use to check your blood pressure. However, make sure to consult with your doctor before you try monitoring your blood pressure at home. Your doctor may have specific instructions regarding when and how often you should check your blood pressure.

(Video) Pregnancy and High Blood Pressure

Causes of abnormal blood pressure during pregnancy

The AHA estimates that 1 out of every 3 American adults has hypertension. In pregnancy, hypertension can be classified into two main categories: chronic hypertension and hypertension related to pregnancy. Chronic hypertension refers to high blood pressure that was present before pregnancy. You may also be diagnosed with this condition if you develop hypertension during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. You may still have the condition after giving birth.

High blood pressure disorders related to pregnancy generally develop after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. There are several types of disorders that range in severity. A 2016 review published in Integrated Blood Pressure Control suggests that age, obesity, and underlying health problems seem to contribute to these conditions. Though these conditions usually go away after you give birth, your risk of getting hypertension in the future is much higher if you develop any of them.

Hypotension, while much less common, can be directly related to pregnancy. Your circulatory system expands during pregnancy to accommodate your fetus. As circulation expands, you might experience a small drop in blood pressure. According to the AHA, this is most common during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. Still, this amount is usually not significant enough to cause concern.

Hypotension may also be caused by:

  • dehydration
  • diabetes
  • low blood sugar
  • heart problems
  • thyroid problems
  • severe allergic reactions
  • blood loss
  • infection
  • malnutrition, particularly a lack of folic acid, B vitamins, and vitamin D

Treating abnormal blood pressure during pregnancy

Hypertension in pregnancy must be monitored closely to prevent potentially life-threatening complications. Your doctor will recommend frequent doctor visits for fetal monitoring, as well as urine and blood tests. Your doctor will likely ask you to keep track of how often your baby kicks each day. A decrease in movement may be problematic and may indicate the need for an early delivery.

Your doctor will also perform ultrasounds throughout your pregnancy to help ensure that your baby is growing properly. Medications may also be recommended depending on the type and severity of high blood pressure issues you develop.

Mild cases of hypotension usually don’t require treatment. Instead, your doctor may advise you to use caution when standing up so you don’t fall. More serious cases may require you to:

  • drink more fluids, especially water
  • wear compression socks
  • consume more salt
  • stand on your feet less frequently
  • take frequent breaks when standing
(Video) Normal blood pressure levels in Pregnancy - Dr. Maheshwari V.G of Cloudnine Hospitals

Complications of abnormal blood pressure during pregnancy

Hypertension puts you and your baby at an increased risk of complications. These include:

  • a preterm delivery, which is a delivery that occurs before 37 weeks
  • a need for a cesarean delivery
  • fetal growth problems
  • placental abruption
  • preeclampsia and eclampsia

Hypotension can pose challenges to pregnancy. A study published in 2010 showed that nearly half of all cases of hypotension in pregnancy occur in women who already have this condition. This study also reported that women with ongoing hypotension during pregnancy were more likely to have nausea, vomiting, vaginal bleeding, and anemia.

(Video) High blood pressure, pre-eclampsia and pregnancy risks

Preventing abnormal blood pressure during pregnancy

The best way to lower your risk of complications is to prevent abnormal blood pressure in the first place. It’s helpful to visit your doctor for a physical exam before becoming pregnant so that any blood pressure abnormalities can be detected early. It’s also best to be a healthy weight before pregnancy.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, there are no proven methods to prevent high blood pressure during pregnancy. However, you should strive to be in the best possible health before getting pregnant by:

  • eating a healthy diet
  • managing any preexisting conditions, such as diabetes
  • limiting alcohol
  • quitting smoking
  • exercising at least three times per week

Outlook for pregnant women with abnormal blood pressure

Hypertension that develops during pregnancy is often resolved after giving birth. Make sure to attend regular prenatal checkups so your doctor can monitor the health of your baby and look for any signs of abnormal blood pressure. If your doctor prescribes medication to control your blood pressure, make sure to take the medication as directed. For preexisting cases of elevated blood pressure, you’ll likely need to continue taking medications after your baby is born.

(Video) Study finds increased cases of high blood pressure during pregnancy

FAQs

Abnormal Blood Pressure Levels in Pregnancy? ›

Preeclampsia and High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
  • Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg.
  • Elevated: Systolic between 120 and 129 mm Hg and diastolic less than 80 mm Hg.
  • Stage 1 hypertension: Systolic between 130 and 139 mm Hg or diastolic between 80 and 89 mm Hg.

What is an unsafe blood pressure during pregnancy? ›

After 20 weeks of pregnancy, blood pressure that's higher than 140/90 mm Hg without any other organ damage is considered to be gestational hypertension. Blood pressure needs to be taken and documented on two or more occasions, at least four hours apart.

What BP is considered preeclampsia? ›

Symptoms. Signs of preeclampsia in a pregnant woman include: Blood pressure of 140/90. Systolic blood pressure that rises by 30 mm Hg or more even it if is less than 140.

How quickly can preeclampsia develop? ›

Preeclampsia usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure had previously been in the standard range.

What causes high BP in pregnancy? ›

Unhealthy lifestyle choices may lead to high blood pressure during pregnancy. Being overweight or obese, or not staying active are major risk factors for high blood pressure.

What are the early warning signs of preeclampsia? ›

Preeclampsia Symptoms
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Headache.
  • Swelling of the face, hands and feet.
  • Upper abdominal pain.
  • Vomiting.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • HELLP syndrome (severe form of preeclampsia)
Jan 10, 2021

Can a baby survive preeclampsia? ›

Preeclampsia and related hypertensive disorders of pregnancy impact 5-8% of all births in the United States. Most women with preeclampsia will deliver healthy babies and fully recover. However, some women will experience complications, several of which may be life-threatening to mother and/or baby.

Does bed rest lower blood pressure? ›

Bed rest can help control your blood pressure and may help keep your heart from beating too fast. If your heart rate slows down, less blood will be pumped into your arteries which helps keep your blood pressure stable.

Does baby move less with preeclampsia? ›

Decreased fetal movements are seen in cases of chronic fetal distress such as preeclampsia, hypertension in pregnancy, etc. It was shown that in these cases a pronounced decrease up to cessation of fetal movements occurred before fetal death in utero while fetal heart beats were still audible for at least 12 hours.

How did you feel with preeclampsia? ›

Although not all women with preeclampsia have symptoms, there are some things you can look out for on your own that might point to the condition. “Symptoms can include a headache that's not relieved by medication, vision changes, pain in your upper abdomen and swelling of your hands and feet,” says Dr. Taylor.

What is considered mild preeclampsia? ›

Preeclampsia can be categorized as mild or severe. You may be diagnosed with mild preeclampsia if you have high blood pressure plus high levels of protein in your urine. You are diagnosed with severe preeclampsia if you have symptoms of mild preeclampsia plus: Signs of kidney or liver damage (seen in blood work).

How can I lower my blood pressure quickly while pregnant? ›

If you are wondering how to lower diastolic blood pressure fast, know that walking briskly for up to 45 minutes each day can achieve this. Try exercising through walking, swimming, or natal yoga for 30 minutes a day throughout each week to regulate blood pressure.

How can I keep my blood pressure down during pregnancy? ›

Get early and your regular prenatal medical care. If your doctor says you need medicine to keep your blood pressure under control, be sure to take it every day as prescribed. Those who are at high risk for preeclampsia may have to take low-dose aspirin to help prevent it. This will be advised by your doctor.

Can stress cause high blood pressure during pregnancy? ›

Stress may lead to high blood pressure during pregnancy. This puts you at risk of a serious high blood pressure condition called preeclampsia, premature birth and having a low-birthweight infant. Stress also may affect how you respond to certain situations.

How do you test for preeclampsia at home? ›

While you are home, your provider may ask you to:
  1. Measure your blood pressure.
  2. Check your urine for protein.
  3. Monitor how much fluid you drink.
  4. Check your weight.
  5. Monitor how often your baby moves and kicks.

How do they test for preeclampsia? ›

To diagnose preeclampsia, your health care provider measures your blood pressure and tests your urine for protein at every prenatal visit. Your provider may check your baby's health with: Ultrasound.

What puts you at risk for preeclampsia? ›

You're at high risk for preeclampsia if: You've had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy. The earlier in pregnancy you had preeclampsia, the higher your risk is to have it again in another pregnancy. You're also at higher risk if you had preeclampsia along with other pregnancy complications.

Is preeclampsia linked to autism? ›

Therefore, preeclampsia can increase risk for developing autistic disorders [3,19]. According to 2 meta-analyses, obesity is a risk factor for preeclampsia and ASD [25,26]. Therefore, increasing obesity prevalence has paralleled the increase in preeclampsia and ASD.

Is it my fault I have preeclampsia? ›

It's not your fault. ' Preeclampsia is responsible for up to 500,000 infant deaths and 76,000 maternal deaths worldwide. The rate of preeclampsia in the US is 3-4 times higher than in other developed countries.

Does preeclampsia mean C section? ›

In most cases of pre-eclampsia, having your baby at about the 37th to 38th week of pregnancy is recommended. This may mean that labour needs to be started artificially (known as induced labour) or you may need to have a caesarean section.

When is blood pressure high enough to go to the hospital during pregnancy? ›

Seek urgent, immediate medical care at the hospital if:

Your blood pressure is very high, such as 160/110 or higher. You have symptoms of pre-eclampsia, such as: Sudden swelling of your face, hands, or feet. New vision problems (such as light sensitivity, blurring, or seeing spots).

Is gestational hypertension an emergency? ›

If untreated, severe gestational hypertension may cause dangerous seizures (eclampsia) and even death in the mother and fetus. Because of these risks, it may be necessary for the baby to be delivered early, before 37 weeks gestation.

Does walking help with preeclampsia? ›

Even light or moderate activities, such as walking, reduced the risk of preeclampsia by 24%.

When is blood pressure high enough to go to the hospital? ›

High blood pressure, caused by lifestyle issues like obesity and not getting enough exercise, among other causes, is a serious disease. If it gets too high, specifically 180/120 or higher, and you have the symptoms listed here, you need to call 911 or go to the emergency room.

What blood pressure will induce labor? ›

“We believe that induction of labor should be advised for women with gestational hypertension and a diastolic blood pressure of 95 mmHg or higher or mild preeclampsia at a gestational age beyond 37 weeks,” Koopmans wrote.

When should I call the doctor about high blood pressure during pregnancy? ›

This is when your systolic pressure is higher than 180 and/or your diastolic pressure is higher than 120. Call your health care provider right away if your blood pressure is this high.

What is an unsafe blood pressure level? ›

Normal pressure is 120/80 or lower. Your blood pressure is considered high (stage 1) if it reads 130/80. Stage 2 high blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. If you get a blood pressure reading of 180/110 or higher more than once, seek medical treatment right away.

How can I bring my blood pressure down immediately? ›

Eating less sodium, sugar, refined carbohydrates and processed foods. Regularly engaging in low-impact exercise (about 30 minutes every day) Taking medication to lower blood pressure.

How do you feel when you have high blood pressure? ›

Blood pressure is mostly a silent disease

Unfortunately, high blood pressure can happen without feeling any abnormal symptoms. Moderate or severe headaches, anxiety, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, palpitations, or feeling of pulsations in the neck are some signs of high blood pressure.

What blood pressure is stroke level? ›

A hypertensive crisis is a severe increase in blood pressure that can lead to a stroke. Extremely high blood pressure — a top number (systolic pressure) of 180 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher or a bottom number (diastolic pressure) of 120 mm Hg or higher — can damage blood vessels.

What is considered mild preeclampsia? ›

Preeclampsia can be categorized as mild or severe. You may be diagnosed with mild preeclampsia if you have high blood pressure plus high levels of protein in your urine. You are diagnosed with severe preeclampsia if you have symptoms of mild preeclampsia plus: Signs of kidney or liver damage (seen in blood work).

Will I be induced if my blood pressure is high? ›

Pregnant women with mild hypertensive disorders such as high blood pressure/mild pre-eclampsia^ should have their labour induced once they complete 37 weeks of their pregnancy.

What is high blood pressure at 38 weeks pregnant? ›

You have gestational hypertension when: You have a systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher and/or a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher.

Does bed rest help high blood pressure pregnancy? ›

But he adds that bed rest clearly reduces daily fluctuations in blood pressure, which may have an impact on outcomes. "The bottom line is that we still recommend bed rest to many, many women who have blood pressure disorders or mild preeclampsia, to flatten out blood pressure throughout the day," he says.

Can preeclampsia come on suddenly? ›

Preeclampsia can develop gradually, or come on quite suddenly, even flaring up in a matter of hours, though the signs and symptoms may have gone undetected for weeks or months.

Is 150 90 blood pressure high during pregnancy? ›

During pregnancy: Mildly high blood pressure is blood pressure between 140/90 and 149/99 mm Hg (ie the systolic or upper number is between 140 and 149, and/or the lower or diastolic number is between 90 and 99). Moderately high blood pressure is blood pressure between 150/100 and 159/109 mm Hg.

Can drinking lots of water lower blood pressure? ›

Something as simple as keeping yourself hydrated by drinking six to eight glasses of water every day improves blood pressure. Water makes up 73% of the human heart,¹ so no other liquid is better at controlling blood pressure.

What time of day is blood pressure highest? ›

Usually, blood pressure starts to rise a few hours before a person wakes up. It continues to rise during the day, peaking in midday. Blood pressure typically drops in the late afternoon and evening. Blood pressure is usually lower at night while sleeping.

Should I worry if my blood pressure is 150 80? ›

high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher (or 150/90mmHg or higher if you're over the age of 80) ideal blood pressure is usually considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg.

Videos

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2. Blood pressure during pregnancy : Normal Ranges & is it normal - Dr. Anitha Rao
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4. PreEclampsia: 10 FACTS YOUR OBGYN WANTS YOU TO KNOW about high blood pressure in pregnancy PART 1
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5. Mom's blood pressure could help determine baby's gender
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