Manage your BP, manage your pregnancy

Blood pressure refers to the force exerted on your blood vessels wall by the flowing blood.
Image used for representational purpose only.
Image used for representational purpose only.

CHENNAI: Blood pressure refers to the force exerted on your blood vessels wall by the flowing blood. You are said to have high blood pressure (also called hypertension) when this force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels is consistently too high. A high blood pressure can be harmful to the organs as the organs may not receive adequate blood supply and may function sub-optimally. Over time, it can lead to organ failures.

When a pregnant woman becomes hypertensive, it can cause complications in pregnancy and can adversely affect maternal and foetal health. There are different types of hypertension that can affect pregnancy. Here’s what you need to know more about it.

Types of high blood pressure before, during, and after pregnancy

  • Chronic Hypertension: Chronic hypertension is having high blood pressure either before pregnancy or before 20 weeks of pregnancy. It can be difficult to diagnose, as high blood pressure does not have evident symptoms. Some women who have chronic hypertension can also develop preeclampsia in the second or third trimester of their pregnancy.
  • Gestational Hypertension: High blood pressure that develops during pregnancy is called gestational hypertension. This is typically identified approximately after 20 weeks of pregnancy. There is absence of protein in urine or other heart or kidney problems. However, some women may later develop chronic hypertension and eventually preeclampsia in later part of the pregnancy.
  • Preeclampsia/Eclampsia: When women with normal blood pressure suddenly develop hypertension after 20 weeks of pregnancy, this condition is called preeclampsia. This is usually associated with damage to other organ systems such as kidneys, liver, blood or brain.

This could be dangerous for the mother and the baby. If uncontrolled, some women with preeclampsia may develop seizures, called eclampsia.

High BP and its effect
High blood pressure can cause damage and other complications to important organs and affect their functionalities. Organs affected by high blood pressure include, heart, brain, kidneys and eyes. However, in most cases, blood pressure is manageable.

High blood pressure can cause injury to your kidneys. If the force of the blood flow through you blood vessels is too high, it eventually affects how blood flows to your kidneys as well. Reduced blood flow can damage kidney’s blood vessels and affect how they work.

Management of high blood pressure
Prevention and treatment of high blood pressure is attainable with simple but consistent changes to your lifestyle routine. Treatment involves regular intake of antihypertensive drugs. They lower blood pressure by different means. Antihypertensive therapy seeks to prevent the complications of high blood pressure, such as stroke and myocardial infarction (a heart attack).

Prevent high blood pressure by
Eating a healthy diet (decrease the salt in your diet)
Losing weight if you are overweight
Being physically active
Limiting alcohol intake
Quitting smoking
Getting enough sleep

Generally, blood pressure is manageable
with the help of diet and exercise. Sometimes, that alone is not enough to regulate blood pressure and requires medication.

Care during pregnancy
Be sure to keep your prenatal appointments
Continue to take blood pressure medications as prescribed
Follow recommended physical activities
Avoid alcohol consumption and smoking
Pregnant ladies with gestational hypertension can have a normal vaginal delivery.

(The writer is the HOD of Department of IVF, Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Gleneagles Global Health City, Chennai)

Dr Padmapriya Vivek

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