This article is part of the Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy.
Even if there was no high blood pressure before pregnancy, a pregnant woman can experience an increase in blood pressure that can cause serious complications for both mom and baby. Known as gestational hypertension or preeclampsia, the primary symptom is a sudden increase in blood pressure. Prenatal doctor visits are the best way to monitor any issues.
What else should you know about preeclampsia?
What is preeclampsia?Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that typically beings after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It is characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to organs - often the kidneys. When left untreated, preeclampsia can lead to seizures, liver or kidney damage, or bleeding problems in the mother. It can also distress or delay growth in the fetus. Unless preeclampsia is mild, doctors usually seek to deliver the baby early.
Symptoms of a high blood pressure problem during pregnancyMonitoring blood pressure at each prenatal visit is an important part of care during pregnancy. High blood pressure can develop slowly but it is most often sudden with preeclampsia. If blood pressure is higher than normal on two occasions, it is a sign of potential preeclampsia. Other symptoms include:
- Excess protein in urine
- Severe headaches
- Blurred vision
- Decreased urine output
- Sudden weight gain or swelling
If you are pregnant and experience severe headaches, blurred vision, severe abdominal pain or severe shortness of breath - do not wait until your next prenatal visit. These are signs of dangerously high blood pressure and warrant a visit to the emergency room.
If you're diagnosed with preeclampsia late in your pregnancy, your doctor will likely want to induce labor right away. If it is too early in the pregnancy to safely deliver the baby, you will be closely monitored and it will be very important to watch your health closely and regularly see your doctor.
Monitoring your health doesn't stop after you have the baby. Postpartum preeclampsia - when a woman has high blood pressure and excess protein in her urine soon after childbirth - is rare but can cause serious problems for the mother including seizures, pulmonary edema, stroke, coma and more. Most cases of postpartum preeclampsia develop within 48 hours of childbirth but it could take 4-6 weeks for complications to occur. If you aren't feeling well after delivering your baby, don't assume it's normal - talk to your doctor about how you're feeling.