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The dangers of high blood pressure during pregnancy

Pregnancy often comes with a long list of woes. Many expectant mothers suffer from swelling, fatigue, nausea and a wide range of unpleasant physical symptoms. High blood pressure (or hypertension) is another common pregnancy complication.

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is a measurement of how efficiently your heart is delivering blood to the rest of your body - including your developing baby. Your blood pressure is considered high if the top number (systolic) is greater than 140 or the bottom number (diastolic) is greater than 90. Some women have high blood pressure throughout their entire pregnancies, while others develop it toward the end.

The importance of early detection

High blood pressure does not always cause physical symptoms. It can easily slip under the radar if not regularly monitored. For this reason, getting proper prenatal care is critical for detecting high blood pressure before it spirals out of control.

Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to damaging complications for both mother and baby, including:

  • Low birth weight
  • Preterm labor
  • Kidney damage
  • Blood clots
  • Placental abruption
  • Seizures
  • Stroke

High blood pressure is also linked to preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening condition that can come on suddenly late in pregnancy. Eclampsia is a leading cause of childbirth-related fatalities worldwide.

Fortunately, high blood pressure during pregnancy can be treatable. Bed rest, reduced activity, stress management and certain medications may be effective in getting it back under control. In some cases, however, delivery may be the only way to safeguard the health of mother and baby. Each case requires a careful risk-balancing analysis based on your unique health situation.

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