High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

High blood pressure (hypertension) means that the force of blood against your artery walls is too strong.

Mild high blood pressure during pregnancy is not usually dangerous. Your doctor will probably just want to watch you closely. But when blood pressure is very high, it can reduce oxygen to your baby. This can affect how well your baby grows.

High blood pressure also means that you are at higher risk for:

  • Pre-eclampsia. This is a problem that includes high blood pressure and damage to your liver or kidneys. It can also reduce how much oxygen your baby gets. In some cases, it leads to eclampsia. Eclampsia causes seizures.
  • Placental abruption. This is a problem when the placenta separates from the uterus before birth. It prevents the baby from getting enough oxygen and nutrients. Sometimes it can cause death for the baby and the mother.

To prevent problems for you or your baby, you will have to check your blood pressure often. You will do this until after your baby is born.

If your blood pressure rises suddenly or is very high during your pregnancy, your doctor may prescribe medicines. They can usually control blood pressure.

If your blood pressure affects your or your baby's health, your doctor may need to deliver your baby early. After your baby is born, your blood pressure will probably improve. But sometimes blood pressure problems continue after birth.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take and write down your blood pressure at home if your doctor tells you to.
  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Do not smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Do not gain too much weight during your pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about how much weight gain is healthy.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Don't use a lot of salt. Take the salt shaker off the table.
  • Get regular, mild exercise. Walking or swimming several times a week can be healthy for you and your baby.
  • Reduce stress, and find time to relax. This is very important if you continue to work or have a busy schedule. It's also important if you have small children at home.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have a seizure.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of pre-eclampsia, such as:
    • Sudden swelling of your face, hands, or feet.
    • New vision problems (such as dimness or blurring).
    • A severe headache.
  • Your blood pressure is higher than it should be or rises suddenly.
  • You have new nausea or vomiting.
  • You think that you are in labour.
  • You have new belly pain.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You gain weight rapidly.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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