High blood pressure in pregnancy
Your blood pressure will change during your pregnancy as your body adjusts. Your midwife will check this at your antenatal appointments and will make you aware if it’s high.
At a glance
- High blood pressure can be harmless
- Very high blood pressure may be a sign of pre-eclampsia
Why might I have high blood pressure in pregnancy?
If you have high blood pressure in pregnancy before week 20 it’s possible that it was a pre-existing condition and will continue to be high after the birth of your baby.
If you start to experience high blood pressure after week 20 it’s called gestational hypertension and will usually go away after the birth. The reason for this increase in blood pressure isn’t fully understood, but it’s thought it could be down to the development of the placenta and the blood vessels within.
It’s for this reason that high blood pressure in pregnancy can lead to a condition called Pre-eclampsia which can cause serious complications for mother's health and baby development if left undiagnosed and untreated. Your midwife will regularly check your blood pressure at antenatal appointments and if they discover you have high blood pressure they will advise you on what to do next.
Should I be worried about high blood pressure in pregnancy?
High blood pressure is fairly common in pregnancy and in the majority of cases it won’t cause any problems for you or your baby although you will likely be offered more appointments for monitoring your blood pressure.
The earlier you experience high blood pressure in pregnancy the more chance you have of developing pre-eclampsia. You’re more likely to experience high blood pressure earlier if you’re overweight, or already have history of high blood pressure.
How is high blood pressure in pregnancy treated?
If your midwife discovers that you have high blood pressure during your pregnancy they will likely suggest extra monitoring along with blood and urine tests. They may also book you in for further scans to ensure the development of your baby is going smoothly.
If your blood pressure remains high but you don’t develop pre-eclampsia, your midwife will continue to monitor your blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure in pregnancy and develop pre-eclampsia, your midwife will monitor you more closely with check-ups and may prescribe some medication in an attempt to lower your blood pressure.
Will high blood pressure in pregnancy harm my baby?
If you experience high blood pressure in pregnancy, there’s a good chance your pregnancy will go smoothly and have no negative effects on your baby, however if it’s very high and you have pre-eclampsia there’s more risk to your baby.
You will have regular scans and tests to ensure that your baby is still growing correctly, and remains healthy. In extreme cases of pre-eclampsia it may be required to induce labour to deliver the baby, but this will only be a last resort in a small number of cases.