Pregnancy Hypertension – Dangerous and Relatively Unknown

Pregnancy hypertension is called preeclampsia or toxemia. It is common in women during a first pregnancy and in young women. It is common in women with multiple fetuses, women who have a history of pregnancy hypertension, chronic hypertension and preexisting diabetes.

Pregnancy hypertension includes three characteristics. They are protein in the urine, high blood pressure (readings in excess of 140/90) and swelling (edema)

Eclampsia, a form of this hypertension, can be severe. Women who experience eclampsia usually have seizures as a result. Approximately 1 in 1,600 pregnant women experiences eclampsia and it develops in the last few months of pregnancy.

The cause of hypertension during pregnancy is unclear. Certain conditions might increase the risk of developing it. They include: preexisting high blood pressure or hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease, a history of pregnancy hypertension, a younger woman (usually less than 20 years old) or a woman older than 40 and twins or triplets.

There could be an increased resistance in the arteries and capillaries as a result of high blood pressure. Restricted flow of blood in the different organ systems of the pregnant mother including the kidneys, liver, uterus, brain and placenta may occur.

As a result of pregnancy hypertension, other problems may develop such as early detachment of the placenta from the uterus. It can also lead to fetal problems including poor fetal growth and still born birth.

Left untreated, severe pregnancy hypertension may cause seizures and death for the fetus and/or mother. It also may be necessary for the baby to be delivered before a gestation period of 37 weeks.

The most common symptoms of high blood pressure in a pregnant woman is: protein in the urine, increased blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, edema, quick weight gain, changes in vision such as double or blurred vision, upper abdominal pain in the right side, changes in kidney or liver function tests or urinating small amounts.

Increase in blood pressure is often the basis of diagnoses. Additional symptoms may aid in establishing pregnancy hypertension as the diagnosis. The tests might include the following: blood pressure readings, assessment of edema, urine testing, and eye examination to check for changes in the retina, frequent weight measurements, blood clotting tests and tests for kidney and liver function.

Your physician will determine treatment specifics for pregnancy hypertension based on the following: medical history and overall health, extent of your hypertension, your overall pregnancy, specific medication tolerances, therapies and procedures and predictions for the course of the disease.

The overall goal of treating this hypertension is to prevent the condition from becoming worse. Pregnancy hypertension treatment may include: bed rest (either at the hospital or at home), hospitalization (in case specialized staff and equipment may be required), magnesium sulfate and fetal monitoring. Cesarean delivery may be recommended.

It is critical to identify at risk women for pregnancy hypertension. Complications of the disease will be prevented or minimized. Warning symptom education is also critical as early recognition may help women receive treatment and prevent the disease from becoming worse.