HEALTH

Understanding high blood pressure in pregnancy

It is a condition that many live with unknowingly

In Summary

• During pregnancy, the condition is managed by administration of medication to lower the mother’s blood pressure

A pregnant woman
A pregnant woman
Image: FILE

Pre-eclampsia is a disorder experienced during pregnancy that affects two to eight per cent of women worldwide and is a condition that many live with unknowingly. It usually occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy or once the baby has been delivered. Often, mothers experience high blood pressure and the presence of a significant amount of protein in urine.

The exact causes of pre-eclampsia are not known, although some researchers suspect poor nutrition or high body fat can be potential contributors. Insufficient blood flow to the uterus is also associated with the condition.

First-time mothers, or those with a pregnancy gap of over 10 years, are most prone to having this problem. Patients with high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease before conception are at a higher risk. Another contributing factor is genetics composition, which can be passed on through generations.

Upon suspicion by a medical practitioner, diagnosis is done through measuring of blood pressure and urine, or blood test during prenatal clinics. If left untreated, the illness could escalate to severe levels, with symptoms including rapid weight gain caused by a significant retention of body fluid, abdominal pain, severe headaches, shortness of breath, blurred vision and excessive vomiting and nausea.

Once pre-eclampsia is diagnosed, frequent prenatal visits are necessary as it poses serious health problems to the baby. It may prevent the placenta from getting enough blood which in turn affects the amount of oxygen and food supply to the foetus. This can result in low birth weight.

During pregnancy, the condition is managed by administration of medication to lower the mother’s blood pressure and boosting platelet and liver functioning. Treatment is also given to speed up the development of the baby’s lungs in cases where it is likely that there will be premature delivery.

Treatment depends on how close the expectant mother is to delivery. If you are close to your due date and the baby is developed enough, a doctor will probably want to deliver the baby as soon as possible.  In a mild case involving a baby which has not reached full development, a specialist will probably recommend bed rest and change of diet to include more protein.