Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the arteries as it travels through your body. If the force gets higher, it leads to hypertension (high blood pressure) which can cause damage to the arteries, resulting in pregnancy complications for you and your baby; other life-threatening issues include stroke, aneurysm and heart attack.
There are different types of high blood pressure
- Chronic hypertension: High blood pressure present before (or up to 20 weeks) of pregnancy.
- Gestational hypertension: High blood pressure that develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Women with gestational hypertension may develop preeclampsia (explained below.)
- Chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia: Women with high blood pressure before pregnancy develop more severe high blood pressure which can lead to other complications during pregnancy.
- Preeclampsia: This condition happens when hypertension develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy; organ systems such as kidneys, bladder, liver can also be affected. Preeclampsia can be fatal if left untreated.
Why high blood pressure is a problem during pregnancy
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, high blood pressure during pregnancy can cause:
- Foetal growth restriction — Hypertension can reduce the flow of nutrients to the baby through the placenta. The baby may develop growth problems as a result.
- Preterm delivery — If the placenta is not providing enough nutrients and oxygen to your baby, early delivery may be better for your baby than allowing the pregnancy to continue.
- Placental abruption — This condition, in which the placenta prematurely detaches from the wall of the uterus, is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.
- Cesarean delivery — Women with hypertension are more likely to have a cesarean delivery than women with normal blood pressure. A cesarean delivery carries risks of infection, injury to internal organs, and bleeding.
What can you do about high blood pressure before pregnancy?
- It’s very important to have a preconception check-up. You have this check-up before you start trying to become pregnant. Any health conditions that may affect your pregnancy will be assessed.
- If the doctor discovers that you have high blood pressure, stay on birth control until your blood pressure has stabilised.
- Follow a healthy diet and make sure that you’re at a healthy weight. Your doctor will discuss this with you. You can also speak to a nutritionist who can help draw up a healthy eating plan for you to follow.
- Being active for approximately 30 minutes per day can help manage your weight and play a role in preventing preeclampsia.
- Smoking can cause further damage to the walls of the blood vessels.
Preeclampsia, caused by high blood pressure, can put you in danger for a high-risk pregnancy. (read full article here.)
Marie Stopes South Africa’s clinics offer a pregnancy care service that includes pregnancy tests and scans to determine if you and your baby are healthy. We’re able to tend to all of your prenatal care and antenatal care needs.
However, if your doctor feels that your health is in jeopardy and it’s in your best interest to terminate your pregnancy, rest assured that all Marie Stopes clinics offer a safe abortion service administered by medical professionals.
You can also have the procedure performed at one of our HCUs based at all three of Dr. David Kathan’s Cape Town clinics: