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It is very common for pregnant women to experience low blood pressure, because quite a lot of body changes occur at this time. Most women will notice their blood pressure dropping at some point early on in their first trimester, and reaching its lowest in the middle of their second trimester. Every prenatal appointment will involve checking your blood pressure by the doctor to ensure your pregnancy proceeds well, as a crucial part of care during pregnancy. In most cases, this drop won’t lead to serious consequences, but in certain circumstances it can pose a danger to the mother and the baby.
Causes of Low Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
1. Expansion of Blood Vessels
Low blood pressure during pregnancy can be due to the blood vessels and their expansion. In fact, pregnant women may drop by 5 to 10 points of systolic pressure and 10 to 15 points for diastolic pressure. In pregnancy, blood vessels expand to prepare for supplying the fetus, while the blood volume won’t reach to that much, your heart therefore must work hard to circulate blood, leading to lower blood pressure.
2. Hypotension in Supine Position
Supine hypotension refers to when a woman experiences low blood pressure during pregnancy while lying down. When you lie down, your uterus spread pressure to major blood vessels within the body, including the vena cava and aorta. This in turn slows down blood circulation. Some women say they feel anxiety or a sense of suffocation when this happens but it can be prevented by lying on your side instead of your back.
3. Hypotension When Rising (Postural Hypotension)
Even you are not pregnant, you must have experienced postural hypotension at some point in their lives. It is more common among pregnant women due to their larger blood volume. Postural hypotension is when your blood pressure drops when you rise quickly from squatting, sitting, or other resting position. Gravity makes your body work harder to successfully circulate blood throughout your body. Standing or getting out of bed more slowly can help to reduce low blood pressure during pregnancy due to postural hypotension.
4. Deficiencies like Anemia
You may develop anemia if you don’t get enough folic acid or vitamin B12. Anemia leads to low blood pressure, causing the issue. It is also possible for dehydration to lead to body deficiencies that slow down circulation. You can fight these potential nutritional deficiencies with a prenatal vitamin.
Should I Worry About Low Blood Pressure During Pregnancy?
It is quite normal to experience a drop in blood pressure during early pregnancy, because this usually occurs when your blood volume increase, helping the body to work harder to compensate the fetus development. Your blood pressure will get lowest during your second trimester before slowly increasing back to the normal level during your final trimester. If blood pressure remains low during labor, however, you should keep in mind that an epidural can further lower it, requiring close supervision.
During the first trimester, this decrease in blood pressure can lead to feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness. Yet, dizzy feelings can also be due to low blood sugar or anemia, so it is important to see a doctor if your symptoms continue. Your doctor may suggest several tests to determine whether your blood pressure is harmless or when to give medical intervention to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
How to Deal With Low Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
Keeping track of your blood pressure on a regular basis is a good way to see how healthy your pregnancy is. It also helps you monitor yourself, detecting potential complications such as preeclampsia. You should track your low blood pressure during pregnancy along with other data such as sleep, activity and nutrition. This will let you and your doctor draw patterns between behaviors that affect blood pressure or vice versa. Be sure to tell your doctor if your blood pressure remains consistently high.
Usually, this condition requires no treatment. If it shows some underlying causes, you can take some targeted methods. Intravenous fluids are required to relieve low blood pressure due to dehydration. Graduated compression stockings can help with low blood pressure caused by pooling blood. Sometimes eating a little more salt can improve it, but always talk to your doctor before trying this method.
You can also follow a few steps to help prevent low blood pressure during pregnancy.
- First, keeping hydrated can serve various supports to your pregnancy.
- When lying down, try to rest on your side instead of your back. This will help blood pressure as well as sciatic nerve and back pain.
- Anytime you feel like fainting, take the time to sit down and lower your head until the faintness passes. Always take it slow when standing up from a sitting position.
- You can also help maintain a normal blood pressure by getting regular exercise so talk to your doctor about a safe routine during pregnancy.
What Others Have Experienced
“I had low blood pressure of 80/50 which led to a fainting spell. My doctor suggested drinking lots of water and eating hourly since my twins were stealing blood flow. It was annoying, but the suggestion helped.”
“My doctor told me that low blood pressure during pregnancy is normal and isn’t concerned about mine at 80/40. He said that since I’m active it will be low. I just need to stay hydrated and keep track of other symptoms. I eat something salty if I feel dizzy, but it takes a day to kick in. I make sure to eat enough salt and am not dizzy the next day.”
Low Blood Pressure and Cold Feeling
“My blood pressure keeps dropping down during the pregnancy, make me struggle a lot. Along with feeling cold all the way, has anyone else experienced the same as me? I just guess that there might be some relations between the two. I am keeping track of it and staying hydrated.”
High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is defined as blood pressure higher than 140/90 mm Hg. The condition is a serious concern for some pregnant women.
High blood pressure during pregnancy isn’t always dangerous. But it can sometimes cause severe health complications for both mother and developing baby. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an increasing number of pregnant women in the United States have this condition.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), there are several possible causes of high blood pressure during pregnancy.
- being overweight or obese
- failing to stay active
- drinking alcohol
- first-time pregnancy
- a family history of pregnancy-related hypertension
- carrying more than one child
- age (over 40)
- assistive technology (such as IVF)
Unhealthy lifestyle choices may lead to high blood pressure during pregnancy. Being overweight or obese, or not staying active, are major risk factors for high blood pressure.
Women experiencing their first pregnancy are more likely to have high blood pressure. Fortunately, there’s a lower chance of this condition in subsequent pregnancies with the same partner.
Women carrying multiples are more likely to develop hypertension, as their body is under additional stress.
Maternal age is also a factor, with pregnant women over the age of 40 being more at risk.
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, using assistive technologies (such as IVF) during the conception process can increase chances of high blood pressure in a pregnant woman.
Women who had high blood pressure before pregnancy are at higher risk for related complications during pregnancy than those with normal blood pressure.
- Chronic hypertension: Sometimes a woman has pre-existing high blood pressure, or hypertension before she gets pregnant. This may be referred to as chronic hypertension, and is usually treated with blood pressure medication. Doctors also consider hypertension that occurs in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy to be chronic hypertension.
- Gestational hypertension: Gestational hypertension develops after the 20th week of pregnancy. It usually resolves after delivery and the most common complication is induced labor. When diagnosed before 30 weeks, there’s a higher chance it will progress to preeclampsia (see below).
- Chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia: Another variation of chronic hypertension is when a woman has hypertension before she becomes pregnant, then also experiences protein in her urine or additional complications as her pregnancy progresses.
A blood pressure reading is a fraction: your systolic blood pressure over your diastolic blood pressure.
- The top number is your systolic pressure, which is a measurement of the pressure on your heart’s arteries when the heart is beating or squeezing blood forward through your body.
- The diastolic or lower number is a measurement of the force of blood pressure in your heart when the heart is at rest.
What is considered normal blood pressure during pregnancy?
To determine what your “normal” blood pressure is during pregnancy, your doctor will likely take a baseline blood pressure measurement at your first visit. Then they will measure your blood pressure at every visit that follows.
Normal blood pressure is usually somewhere close to 120/80 mm Hg.
What is considered high blood pressure during pregnancy?
A blood pressure that is greater than 140/90 mm Hg, or that is 15 degrees higher on the top number from where you started out before pregnancy, may be cause for concern.
Early in pregnancy, usually from 5 weeks’ pregnant to the middle of the second trimester, a pregnant woman’s blood pressure may actually decrease. This is because pregnancy hormones can stimulate blood vessels to widen. As a result, the resistance to blood flow isn’t as high.
What is considered low blood pressure during pregnancy?
While there isn’t a definitive number that is too low, there are symptoms that are associated with low blood pressure:
As a woman progresses in her pregnancy, her blood pressure may change or return to prepregnancy levels. Reasons for this may include the following.
The amount of blood in a woman’s body increases. According to the journal Circulation, a woman’s blood volume increases by as much as 45 percent during pregnancy. This is an extra amount of blood that the heart must pump throughout the body.
The left ventricle (left side of the heart that does a significant amount of pumping) becomes thicker and larger. This temporary effect allows the heart to work harder to support the increased blood volume.
The kidneys release increased amounts of vasopressin, a hormone that leads to increased water retention.
In most cases, high blood pressure during pregnancy will subside almost immediately after the baby is delivered. In cases where blood pressure remains elevated, your doctor may prescribe medication to get it back to normal.
Tips for tracking blood pressure during pregnancy
There are many ways that you can track your blood pressure during pregnancy. Try out the following ideas:
If high blood pressure continues after 20 weeks of pregnancy, there can be complications. Preeclampsia can develop.
What is preeclampsia?
This condition can cause serious damage to your organs, including your brain and kidneys. Preeclampsia is also known as toxemia or pregnancy-induced hypertension. Preeclampsia with seizures becomes eclampsia. This can be fatal.
Thorough prenatal care, including regular doctor’s visits, should be able to address preeclampsia symptoms. Symptoms include:
- protein in a urine sample
- abnormal swelling in hands and feet
- persistent headaches
HELLP is an acronym that stands for hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count. This condition is severe and life-threatening, and can be a complication of preeclampsia. Symptoms associated with HELLP include nausea, vomiting, headache, and upper abdominal pain. Because HELLP syndrome can severely damage organ systems vital to life, emergency medical care is aimed at reducing blood pressure for the health of the mother and the baby. In some cases, a premature delivery is required.
High blood pressure during pregnancy can also have an effect on the baby’s growth rate. This can result in low birth weight. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, other complications include:
- placental abruption, a medical emergency during which the placenta detaches from the uterus prematurely
- preterm delivery, defined as delivery prior to 38 weeks of pregnancy
- caesarean delivery
Common risk factors for high blood pressure, such as obesity and a history of high blood pressure, can be minimized through diet and exercise. Of course, during pregnancy, it is inevitable that you will gain some weight. It’s recommended that pregnant women consult with their doctor to identify a weight gain target that is healthy for them.
Dietary guidelines for pregnant women vary from person to person. Speak with a nutritionist who will keep your specific height and weight in mind when creating a nutrition plan for you.
The NHLBI emphasizes that it’s important to take steps to lessen your risk of high blood pressure. You should steer clear of smoking and drinking alcohol, both of which have been known to raise blood pressure.
Pregnancy causes hormone shifts, as well as psychological and physical changes. This can bring on stress, which can make high blood pressure harder to manage. Try stress reduction techniques such as yoga and meditation.
Some traditional blood pressure medications can cause problems in pregnant women.
According to Mayo Clinic, these medications for lowering blood pressure should be avoided when you are pregnant:
These drugs in particular will be passed through the bloodstream to the developing baby. They can negatively impact the baby’s health. These medications may also cause blood to thin, which can compromise the mother’s ability to carry the baby to term.
Methyldopa and labetalol are both drugs that have been deemed safe for use to manage blood pressure during pregnancy.
Talk to your doctor about how to control your blood pressure if you develop hypertension during pregnancy.
High blood pressure during pregnancy doesn’t usually lead to serious problems. However, if it goes untreated, hypertension can become life-threatening for both mother and baby. Unfortunately, hypertensive disorders resulting from high blood pressure are the second-leading cause of U.S. maternal death during pregnancy.
Always talk to your doctor about your concerns. Plan to stay on top of your prenatal care to have the healthiest pregnancy outcome possible.
Take the time to understand the risk factors and possible causes of high blood pressure before you get pregnant — and take preventive measures to keep your blood pressure down during pregnancy.
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High blood pressure during pregnancy.The causes of high blood pressure during pregnancy
What is hypertension and preeclampsia
- Preeclampsia may start sweating because the placenta does not germinate as usual its vascular network in the uterine wall. This leads to a deterioration of blood flow to the placenta.
Preeclampsia – Topic Overview
Articles On Preeclampsia
What is preeclampsia?
Preeclampsia is new high blood pressure after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It usually goes away after you give birth.
Not all high blood pressure is preeclampsia. In some women, blood pressure goes up very high in the second or third trimester. This is sometimes called gestational hypertension, and it can lead to preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia can be dangerous for the mother and baby. It can keep the baby from getting enough blood and oxygen. It also can harm the mother’s liver, kidneys, and brain. Women with very bad preeclampsia can have dangerous seizures. This is called eclampsia.
What causes preeclampsia?
Experts don’t know the exact cause.
Preeclampsia seems to start because the placenta doesn’t grow the usual network of blood vessels deep in the wall of the uterus. This leads to poor blood flow in the placenta.
If your mother had preeclampsia while she was pregnant with you, you have a higher chance of getting it during pregnancy. You also have a higher chance of getting it if the mother of your baby’s father had preeclampsia.
Already having high blood pressure when you get pregnant raises your chance of getting preeclampsia.
What are the symptoms?
Mild preeclampsia usually doesn’t cause symptoms.
But preeclampsia can cause rapid weight gain and sudden swelling of the hands and face.
Severe preeclampsia causes symptoms such as a very bad headache and trouble seeing and breathing. It also can cause belly pain and decreased urination.
How is preeclampsia diagnosed?
Preeclampsia is usually found during a prenatal visit.
This is one reason why it’s so important to go to all of your prenatal visits. You need to have your blood pressure checked often. During these visits, your blood pressure is measured. A sudden increase in blood pressure often is the first sign of a problem.
You also will have a urine test to look for protein, another sign of preeclampsia.
If you have high blood pressure, tell your doctor right away if you have a headache or belly pain. These signs of preeclampsia can occur before protein shows up in your urine.
How is it treated?
The only cure for preeclampsia is having the baby.
You may get medicines to lower your blood pressure and to prevent seizures.
You also may get medicine to help your baby’s lungs get ready for birth.
Your doctor will try to deliver your baby when the baby has grown enough to be ready for birth. But sometimes a baby has to be delivered early to protect the health of the mother or the baby. If this happens, your baby will get special care for premature babies.