Is my pregnancy causing high blood pressure?
Considering that your blood volume increases during pregnancy, it may come as no surprise that you will likely experience a normal physiological increase in blood pressure. When your heart pumps blood, if the pressure created by the force of the blood pushing against the walls of your arteries is too high, you can be diagnosed with high blood pressure or hypertension. During pregnancy, this can be classified into three different groups.
If you experienced high blood pressure prior to becoming pregnant, or if it developed before your second trimester (around 20 weeks…), it is classified as chronic hypertension. In some cases, folks are unaware that its an issue until they are being seen for typical pregnancy wellness visits. Occasionally, chronic hypertension can lead to something called Preeclampsia- which we will discuss in a bit.
Pregnancy Induced Hypertension
While pregnant, you may not present with any other symptoms beyond consistently high blood pressure readings. This is considered Gestational hypertension or Pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH). Most often, there’s is no damage done to the pregnant person or baby, and blood pressure readings will return to normal after about 12 weeks postpartum. Occasionally, it can be serious enough to cause low birth weight, preterm labor or develop into preeclampsia.
After 20 weeks, one may experience a sudden onset of high blood pressure. Generally speaking, this will happen in the third trimester of pregnancy. Very rarely, symptoms will appear after your baby has been born. Postpartum preeclampsia or toxemia often causes a bit of damage to the liver or kidneys. If not managed properly, it can be life-threatening for both the pregnant person and the baby. The constant monitoring after birth is how care providers become aware of possible signs which may include protein in the urine and very high blood pressure.
So, how does one navigate all of this?
For mild hypertension, you can help lower your blood pressure by lying on your left side, to alleviate the pressure on your major blood vessels by the weight of the bab(ies). It may also help to decrease your salt intake, stay hydrated (shoot for half your body weight in ounces), and stay in close contact with your care provider. In some cases, they may ask that you take your blood pressure at home and log the readings. Acupuncture, massage, and bodywork can also help to lower your blood pressure naturally.
For severe hypertension, your care provider may prescribe medication until you are far enough along in the pregnancy to birth safely. In labor, you may consider opting for an epidural, the administration of epidurals can sometimes lead to a drop in blood pressure. If the blood pressure is not able to be brought down to a safe level, your doctor may discuss scheduling a cesarean delivery with you.
Our team of doulas all have experience working with clients that have been diagnosed with hypertension. We are ready and willing to walk through this with you. It can be challenging to navigate emotionally and physically, but we are here for you!