May is Preeclampsia awareness month! And as a High Risk Obstetrics nurse and mom who also had some mildly elevated blood pressures herself, I couldn’t let the month pass without letting my friends know about Preeclampsia.

Some women have high blood pressure before pregnancy, while others develop it during pregnancy. A serious condition called preeclampsia can also arise during or shortly after pregnancy. Yes I said after!

You may hear different terms going around. First I want you to know that most organizations consider a normal blood pressure to be less than 120/80 mmHg.

Now,  let’s clarify the difference between Chronic Hypertension vs. Gestational Hypertension.

Chronic Hypertension: This is high blood pressure that is present before pregnancy or that develops before 20 weeks of pregnancy. If you’re on blood pressure medication before getting pregnant, even with normal readings, it indicates chronic hypertension.

Gestational Hypertension: This is diagnosed when high blood pressure occurs for the first time after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It’s defined by a systolic pressure (top number) of 140 mm Hg or higher and/or a diastolic pressure (bottom number) of 90 mm Hg or higher. Most cases are mild, but some can become severe, leading to serious complications.

Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a serious condition that can affect many vital organs in your body. It typically develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy, often in the third trimester, and as I said before it can also occur after childbirth. Early-onset preeclampsia occurs before 34 weeks of pregnancy.

Some things that increase your chances of developing Preeclampsia include:

  • Previous preeclampsia
  • Multiple pregnancies (twins, triplets)
  • Chronic hypertension
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • BMI over 30
  • Family history of preeclampsia
  • Age 35 or older
  • Previous pregnancy complications
  • IVF pregnancy
  • Black race (due to systemic inequities)

Signs and Symptoms of Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia can develop quietly, it can be sneaky ladies so it’s important to be aware of symptoms:

  • Sudden Swelling of the face or hands
  • Persistent headaches
  • Changes in vision or seeing spots
  • Upper abdominal or shoulder pain
  • Nausea and vomiting (after mid-pregnancy)
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Difficulty breathing

If you experience any of these symptoms, especially in the second half of pregnancy, please contact your doctor or midwife immediately.

Severe Preeclampsia Symptoms known as “Preeclampsia with Severe Features”

  • Low platelets
  • Abnormal kidney or liver function
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Vision changes
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Severe headache
  • Very high blood pressure (systolic (top number) more than or equal to 160 mm Hg or diastolic (bottom number) more than or equal to 110 mm Hg)

What to do if you have High Blood Pressure and want to get pregnant?

The first step is to visit your primary care doctor or ob-gyn for a check-up. It is very likely your doctor will:

  • Ensure your blood pressure is controlled, he or she may suggest lifestyle changes before pregnancy.
  • May Check your heart and kidney health with labs and other tests
  • Review your medications for pregnancy safety and make any adjustments
  • Discuss the signs and symptoms of preeclampsia so you’re educated and prepared.

Monitoring and managing blood pressure before and during pregnancy is vital for your health and the health of your baby. If this was helpful, share with someone today.

I’m smart but I need help too, much of this info was obtained from The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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