High blood pressure during pregnancy: 6 warning signs

high blood pressure during pregnancy

During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes many changes, and among these changes, blood pressure fluctuations are common. High blood pressure during pregnancy, also known as hypertension, causes the risk to both the mother and the baby. In this article, we will delve into the causes of high blood pressure during pregnancy, symptoms, and ways of prevention.

Blood pressure is the measurement of the force exerted by blood as it pushes against the walls of blood vessels. Hypertension or high blood pressure occurs when this force surpasses the normal range.

What is high blood pressure during pregnancy?

Gestational hypertension, or high blood pressure during pregnancy, is a common disease in the United States and happens in 1 in every 12 to 17 pregnancies.  Women aged 20 – 44 are subjected to this condition. It begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy and goes away after childbirth. High blood pressure in pregnancy may be without any noticeable symptoms. That’s why expectant women have to visit healthcare provider to monitor the well-being. High blood pressure while pregnant can lead to complications. Your provider will monitor you and the fetus more closely and help you manage your blood pressure for the remainder of your pregnancy.

Causes of High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

Chronic Hypertension

Some women may experience pre-existing high blood pressure before pregnancy. This condition is known as chronic hypertension. It can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy.

Gestational Hypertension

This type of hypertension arises after 20 weeks of pregnancy and typically resolves after childbirth. The exact cause is unknown but may be related to placental issues.


Preeclampsia is a severe condition that can develop during pregnancy. This condition is characterized by high blood pressure and damage to organs such as the liver and kidneys. The cause of this condition is still under study. However, many scientists believe that genetics, blood vessel problems, and the immune system contribute to this condition.

Are preeclampsia and gestational hypertension the same?

These two conditions are different. Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure that expectant women may experience in the second trimester. It doesn’t have a negative effect on the kidney, and as a result, you won’t have protein in the pee. This condition can contribute to preeclampsia, that is why regular and frequent prenatal check-ups are essential.

As regards preeclampsia, it is a serious form of high blood pressure. It also occurs in the latter half of pregnancy. Untreated preeclampsia can cause serious health problems like kidney, liver, and brain damage. Preeclampsia can also cause growth problems for the fetus and increase the risk of stillbirth.

What is the difference between hypertension and gestational hypertension?

High blood pressure during pregnancy affects the body differently. The heart of pregnant women works harder during pregnancy because it has to pump much more blood. This puts extra stress on your body. The development and functioning of the placenta also can be affected by high blood pressure during pregnancy. As a result, the baby won’t get the nutrients it needs to grow at a normal rate.

Who is at risk of developing high blood pressure during pregnancy?

The factors below may contribute to the development of high blood pressure during pregnancy. They include:

  • Members of the family experienced gestational hypertension;
  • women under 20 or over age 40;
  • experienced gestational hypertension or preeclampsia during past pregnancies;
  • women with diabetes;
  • women with kidney disease;
  • immune disorders;
  • multiple pregnancies.

Gestational hypertension

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

As high blood pressure during pregnancy may not have noticeable symptoms, it is also called a “silent killer.” Regular prenatal check-ups are essential. However, expecting mothers with severe cases may experience severe headaches, visual disturbances, abdominal pain, and swelling in the hands and face. Also, pregnant women may experience:

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • sudden weight gain
  • peeing a little bit at a time


Routine prenatal care includes monitoring blood pressure during every visit. If hypertension is suspected, additional tests may be conducted:

Tests of Urine: To indicate preeclampsia, it is necessary to elevate protein levels in the urine.
Blood Tests: Such tests show how mom’s organ functions and detect any possible complications.
Ultrasound: It helps to assess the placenta’s health and monitor the baby’s growth.
Non-Stress Test: It allows monitoring of the baby’s heart rate in response to its movements.

Find out how low blood pressure in pregnancy can affect the baby.

Prevention of high blood pressure in pregnancy

While some factors contributing to high blood pressure during pregnancy cannot be controlled, several strategies can help reduce risks:

Regular Prenatal Care

Attend all prenatal check-ups to monitor blood pressure and receive guidance on managing it.

Healthy Lifestyle

Maintain a balanced diet, engage in safe and regular physical activity, and manage stress through relaxation techniques.

Limit Sodium Intake

Reducing sodium intake can help control blood pressure. Avoid processed and salty foods.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking enough water during pregnancy is vital. It helps expecting mothers to feel better and form the amniotic fluid around the fetus. Dehydration during pregnancy can contribute to serious problems, including elevated blood pressure, low amniotic fluid, or even neural tube defects. Make sure to drink up to 12 cups of water per day.

high blood pressure in pregnancy

Avoid Smoking and Alcohol

These substances can raise blood pressure and harm the baby’s development.

Medication Management

If you have chronic hypertension, consult your healthcare provider about safe medications during pregnancy.

Manage Chronic Conditions

If you have conditions like diabetes or kidney disease, proper management is essential.

Word from Sonohealth

High blood pressure during pregnancy is a serious concern that requires careful monitoring and management. Early detection, regular prenatal care, a healthy lifestyle, and medical guidance can help minimize the risks associated with hypertension. Expectant mothers should prioritize their well-being to ensure a safe and healthy pregnancy journey for both themselves and their babies.

FAQs about high blood pressure in pregnancy

1. What are the symptoms of high blood pressure in pregnancy?

While high blood pressure in pregnancy may not have noticeable symptoms, more severe cases may be accompanied by such symptoms as blurred vision or sensitivity to light, severe headache, pain in the stomach, nausea or vomiting, extra protein in the urine, or other signs of kidney problems.

2. What is normal blood pressure during pregnancy?

Normal blood pressure in pregnancy is less than 120/80 mm Hg. Readings above 140/90 mm Hg in pregnancy indicate high blood pressure or hypertension.

3. What is considered high blood pressure in pregnancy?

After 20 weeks of pregnancy, blood pressure that’s higher than 140/90 mm Hg is considered to be gestational hypertension.

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