Hypertension is a socially significant disease. 10% of pregnant women suffer from hypertension. High blood pressure is particularly dangerous during pregnancy, as it can affect both the mother and the fetus.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hypertension is blood pressure over 140/90mmHg.
FORMS OF HYPERTENSION IN PREGNANT WOMEN
The most severe forms of hypertension in pregnant women are eclampsia and preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is hypertension that occurs after 20 weeks of gestation with proteinuria (protein in the urine). Eclampsia is an emergency with hypertension and seizures. There are other forms of hypertension where there is no proteinuria.
Preeclampsia is thought to occur due to impaired blood flow to the placenta, resulting in multiple reactions from the mother’s body. The disease affects both the mother and the fetus. The mother could develop hemolysis (destruction of erythrocytes), liver damage and a low platelet count. Impaired blood flow to the fetus slows its growth and could lead to placental abruption and premature birth.
Obesity, first pregnancy and being under 18 or over 35 are all factors contributing to a higher risk of developing preeclampsia. Diabetes, kidney disease, some autoimmune diseases (lupus) also increase the likelihood as well. Women suffering from preeclampsia should give birth through a c-section.
There is no 100% effective method of preventing hypertension during pregnancy. Proper nutrition (less salt), physical activity and achieving a healthy weight before conception has a positive effect though.
Do not miss your prenatal checkups and regularly measure your blood pressure at home. If you feel like you’re getting edema, dizziness, visual impairment, seek medical attention. Your obstetrician-gynecologist can prescribe you a blood pressure medicine that will not harm the fetus.
HYPERTENSION AND LACTATION
Breastfeeding does not increase the risk of hypertension in the mother. However, it lowers the likelihood of the child developing hypertension in the future — that’s another reason why you should choose to breastfeed.