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Why Hypertension Matters

Why Hypertension Matters


Pregnancy-induced hypertension is a serious concern, and a very common one, affecting up to 5 percent of pregnant women. Hypertension causes elevated blood pressure – over 140/90 mmHg – during later pregnancy. There is no treatment available for pregnancy-induced hypertension, but it will disappear soon after the birth of your baby. Your doctor may perform an emergency Cesarean section if your life or your baby's life is in danger, but most women are put onto bed rest if the condition worsens during the second or third trimester. Pregnancy-induced hypertension can cause infant death, or even maternal death in rarer cases. The three types of pregnancy-induced hypertension are:

Gestational Hypertension: This is the most common form, and causes no other symptoms besides high blood pressure (over 140/90 in the last half of pregnancy). It is the least serious of the three kinds of pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Preeclampsia: This is more serious, and is diagnosed in pregnant women who have a blood pressure over 140/90 in the final 20 weeks of their pregnancy. Protein is also found in the urine, and women will likely be confined to bed rest at some point of their pregnancy.

Eclampsia: This is a very serious type of pregnancy-induced hypertension, and can lead to convulsions or coma in the mother, and even infant death. You will be put on bed rest if you develop eclampsia during the later stages of your pregnancy, and will be monitored very closely by your health care professional.

Doctors don't know what exactly causes pregnancy-induced hypertension. Some studies show that it may occur when the embryo implants in the uterus and when blood vessels constrict. In normal pregnancies, these blood vessels are relaxed in the uterus. There are certain risk factors that can increase your odds of having pregnancy-induced hypertension, including having your first child before age 20 or after age 35, being pregnant with multiples, or having a history of hypertension or diabetes before pregnancy. If you are of African descent, you're also more susceptible to pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Watch for signs of pregnancy-induced hypertension, as they can lead to severe complications if left untreated. If you notice one or more of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately:

  • swelling in the face or neck, or sudden weight gain
  • headaches, double or blurred vision, or seeing spots
  • nausea or stomach pain
  • dizziness
  • sudden decrease in urination
 


 
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