Men and women who suffer from high blood pressure have a serious problem on their hands that should not be taken lightly. It is especially critical for women to prevent or control their high blood pressure, also known medically as hypertension, since the effects can be fatal. Studies show that out of four women, three know they have high blood pressure. Ironically, one of the three may take measures to control it.
Although many women who have blood pressure problems have healthy babies, high blood pressure pregnancy poses a serious risk. Pregnant women who have uncontrolled hypertension may have critical issues develop during the pregnancy that may affect the mother and fetus. These problems may be prevented or lessened by discussing them with the doctor before pregnancy. If the high blood pressure of the mother is chronic, steps can be taken to help lessen the complications that may develop during the pregnancy. Pregnant or not, the important first step is to get the blood pressure under control.
Preeclampsia is a condition brought about by the increase in the mother’s blood pressure and protein found in the urine. The protein in the urine is the result of her kidney problems brought about by the high blood pressure. Toxemia of pregnancy generally develops after the 20th week and not only affects the mother’s brain, liver and kidney, but it also affects the placenta. Thus, the complications from toxemia of pregnancy not only include premature birth and low birth weight, but also stillbirth.
Seizures may occur in the mother if she develops preeclampsia during her pregnancy and when this happens it is called eclampsia. The seizures associated with eclampsia are the second leading cause of death for the mother in the United States. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to prevent preeclampsia and the only cure is deliver the baby. This is why it is so important that any woman who has a problem with their blood pressure talk to their doctor immediately when they become pregnant and preferably before they become pregnant.
The following women may be at risk of developing preeclampsia: women previously diagnosed with hypertension, developed preeclampsia during the early stages of a previous pregnancy, are obese, under age 20 and over age 40 when pregnant, expecting more than one baby, has been diagnosed with kidney disease, scleroderma, lupus, diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.
Preeclampsia is not easy to detect, there are no precise tests that will pinpoint the problem. Instead, doctors must rely on signs and tests that seem to indicate the possibility of toxemia of pregnancy. Unfortunately, these same signs could be associated with other diseases or even with healthy pregnancies so working closely with a physician becomes extremely important. The physician will look for the important signs of increased blood pressure and “proteinuria” which basically is protein in the urine. They will also look at symptoms which may include persistent headaches, sensitivity to light and/or blurred vision, and complaints of abdominal pain.
Women who have high blood pressure and want to become pregnant can reduce or lessen the complications associated with high risk pregnancy by making lifestyle changes such as:
1. The doctor may strongly suggest that she lose weight, change her eating habits.
2. Have a heart-to-heart talk with your doctor to find out how your hypertension may affect you and your baby and what you must do to protect yourself – then do it!
3. There are some medicines that lower blood pressure that should not be taken while pregnant. It is extremely important that physician make the final decision on what drugs can be taken.
4. Any changes in prescription medications which lower blood pressure should always be made by the attending physician and NEVER by the patient and that includes stopping or reducing the dosage.
5. Even over-the-counter medicines can have serious consequences during a high risk pregnancy. Talk to the physician about any and all over-the-counter medicines beforehand.
In a high blood pressure pregnancy, regular prenatal care is essential for the health of the mother and fetus. It goes without saying that pregnant women should not drink or smoke while pregnant. The physician may be able to suggest special programs for women who are pregnant and have problems stopping their smoking or drinking.
If a health situation can be taken care of before or during a pregnancy, it should be since it may cause serious problems later.