Most pregnant women have a healthy baby without any problems but women with high levels of high blood pressure are likely to experience certain complications.

A woman with recently diagnosed or long term high blood pressure is at risk of developing health problems. But, a woman can develop high blood pressure during her pregnancy which is called ‘gestational hypertension’.

High blood pressure can cause a whole range of medical conditions such as heart disease or a stroke but it can cause serious problems during pregnancy. These problems can affect both the mother and the baby and in some cases, may be fatal.

One such problem is pre-eclampsia.

Both pre-eclampsia and gestational hypertension are discussed in more detail within this section.

Your blood pressure will be checked at regular intervals during your pregnancy in order to reduce the risks of pre-eclampsia and other serious conditions. Your midwife will also keep an eye on your blood pressure which is vital for you and your baby’s health.

Your blood pressure should be around 120/80 although this can vary during pregnancy. Find out more about this in our blood pressure readings section.

Changes in blood pressure during pregnancy

It is normal for your blood pressure to fall slightly during your pregnancy. This is due to the hormone progesterone which relaxes your blood vessels during pregnancy. This has the effect of lowering your blood pressure during the early stages of your pregnancy.

What you may find is that you feel faint when you stand up too quickly or stand upright for a long time.

Your blood pressure is at its lowest level during 18 to 20 weeks of your pregnancy. But it will return to normal in the last few weeks before you have your baby.

If you develop high blood pressure before the 20th week of your pregnancy then this is termed ‘primary high blood pressure’ (essential hypertension). What this means is that you already had this form of high blood pressure before you became pregnant. Plus this blood pressure will remain stay high after the birth of your baby.

But if you develop high blood pressure after twenty weeks of your pregnancy then this is termed gestational hypertension.

Risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy

The main risk is pre-eclampsia. You are at risk of developing this if you have primary high blood pressure or gestational hypertension. But your GP or midwife will advise you on what to look for.

High blood pressure after childbirth

Your high blood pressure will drop after childbirth but it will take a few weeks to do so. But rest assured that it will be checked frequently once your baby is born, usually once within 6 hours of your baby’s birth.

If you have gestational hypertension then it will be checked more frequently, e.g. every 4 hours.

But if it remains high then you will be given high blood pressure medication to control it. This will continue for some period of time after the birth of your baby.

It is important to realise that if you had high blood pressure before becoming pregnant then this will continue unless you take medication. High blood pressure if left untreated can cause serious health problems such as heart disease or a stroke. So, it needs to be regulated.

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