This topic is about high blood pressure that some women get while they are pregnant. For information about pre-eclampsia, a more serious kind of high blood pressure, see the topic Pre-Eclampsia.
Blood pressure is a measure of how hard your blood pushes against the walls of your arteries. If the force is too hard, you have high blood pressure (also called hypertension).
Blood pressure is shown as two numbers. The top number (systolic) is the pressure when the heart pumps blood. The bottom number (diastolic) is the pressure when the heart relaxes and fills with blood.
Blood pressure is high if the top number is 140 or higher or if the bottom number is 90 or higher.
Normally, a woman's blood pressure drops during her second trimester. Then it returns to normal by the end of the pregnancy.
But some women have high blood pressure while they are pregnant. They may have:
Sometimes high blood pressure during pregnancy is a first sign of pre-eclampsia. This condition can be dangerous for both mother and baby.
Having high blood pressure during pregnancy doesn't mean that you will get pre-eclampsia. But it does mean that you need to have your blood pressure checked often. And you may need treatment.
If your blood pressure is very high, it could keep your baby from getting enough blood and oxygen. This could limit your baby's growth, or it could cause the placenta to pull away from the uterus too soon. (This is called abruptio placenta.) It also could lead to stillbirth.
High blood pressure usually doesn't cause symptoms. You will probably feel fine, even if your blood pressure is too high.
Tell your doctor right away if you have any signs of very high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia, such as:
High blood pressure is usually found during a prenatal visit. This is one reason it's so important to go to all of your prenatal checkups.
At each prenatal visit, your doctor, nurse, or midwife will:
If you have high blood pressure while you're pregnant, you will have regular tests to check your baby's health. These may include:
If your doctor thinks you are at high risk for pre-eclampsia, you may have other tests, including:
You may need to take medicine if your doctor thinks your blood pressure is too high. Medicines used to treat high blood pressure during pregnancy include methyldopa and nifedipine.
Some common blood pressure medicines are not safe during pregnancy. If you take medicine for chronic high blood pressure:
If you are at high risk for pre-eclampsia, your doctor may recommend that you take low-dose aspirin and a calcium supplement during your pregnancy.footnote 1
To help control your blood pressure and have a healthy pregnancy:
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Learning about high blood pressure during pregnancy:
Taking care of yourself:
Magee LA, et al. (2014). Diagnosis, evaluation, and management of the hypertensive disorders of pregnancy: Executive summary. SOGC Clinical Practice Guideline No. 307. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, 36(5): 416–438. http://sogc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/gui307CPG1405E1.pdf. Accessed June 26, 2014.
Other Works Consulted
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2012). Chronic hypertension in pregnancy. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 125. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 119(2): 396–407.
Campbell NRC (2015). Hypertension. Compendium of Therapeutic Choices. Ottawa: Canadian Pharmacists Association. https://www.e-therapeutics.ca. Accessed March 30, 2016.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2014). Low-dose aspirin use for the prevention of morbidity and mortality from preeclampsia: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/uspstf/uspsaspg.htm. Accessed September 16, 2014.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerSarah Marshall, MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineElizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerWilliam Gilbert, MD - Maternal and Fetal MedicineThomas M. Bailey, MD - Family MedicineKirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as ofNovember 21, 2017
Current as of: November 21, 2017
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
& Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Elizabeth T. Russo, MD - Internal Medicine & William Gilbert, MD - Maternal and Fetal Medicine & Thomas M. Bailey, MD - Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
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