Blood pressure is defined as the force of the blood against the arteries. It is usually denoted with two numbers, the first is the systolic blood pressure and the second is the diastolic blood pressure.
Normal Blood Pressure
During pregnancy there is increase in blood volume to help support the growing fetus. During the first 24 weeks of pregnancy there is an actual drop in blood pressure.
The systolic blood pressure drops by 5 to 10 points and the diastolic by 10 to 15 points. The fall in blood pressure is regulated by the hormone progesterone. By 18 to 20th week of pregnancy the blood pressure is at the lowest and the blood volume would have increased by about a litre. The blood pressure returns to normal during the last weeks of pregnancy.
High Blood Pressure
The blood pressure is high when the the systolic blood pressure is 140 and diastolic blood pressure is 90. High blood presuure during pregnancy poses various risks and requires special care.
Types of High Blood Pressure
There are three types of high blood pressure in pregnant women, essential hypertension, gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia.
When there is hypertension even before the pregnancy continues throughout the pregnancy and lasts even after delivery it is called essential hypertension. The hypertension usually lasts for more than 12 weeks after delivery.
Gestational hypertension, as the name suggests starts and lasts only during the pregnancy period. This usually starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy and goes away after delivery.
Both essential hypertension and gestational hypertension can lead to pre-eclampsia. There is high blood pressure and protein in the urine in pre-eclampsia. This usually starts after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Risks of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can be dangerous for both the mother and the baby. It is also true that many a pregnant women deliver a healthy baby without serious complications, in spite of the high blood pressure. High blood pressure results in reduced supply of oxygen and nutrients to the baby. The baby will not be able to develop properly resulting in low birth weight baby. There is a risk that the placenta night get separated from the walls of the uterus all of a sudden.
This again causes the baby to be deprived of nutrients. It will also cause bleeding in the mother. There is the risk of pre-term delivery in a mother with high blood pressure. There is a risk of developing future cardio vascular complications if the pressure continues even after delivery. Pre-eclampsia is a very dangerous condition and be on the look out for its warning signs. Headaches, blurring of vision, upper abdominal pain, oedema of face and hands are some of the warning signs of pre-eclampsia. You may need to be hospitalised if diagnosed as pre-eclampsia.
Care for Hypertension
Timely visits to your doctor and monitoring of blood pressure is very essential. Report to your doctor if you feel any untoward symptoms. Take your medications as prescribed by the doctor. Take care of your diet and eat a well balanced healthy meal. Involve in safe physical activity. Restrict your salt intake. Relax and stay away from worries. Avoid alcohol, quit smoking.
Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure during pregnancy occurs when the blood pressure falls below 90/60 mm of Hg. is caused by several factors like anaemia, dehydration, low blood sugar levels, pooling of blood in the legs thus restricting blood flow to the brain., pressure of the enlarged uterus on major blood vessels, hormonal influences etc. Drink plenty of fluids and eat a well balanced meal. Pregnant women are usually advised to sleep on their sides than on the back; take care while rising up and lying down.