What should I do to prepare for pregnancy?

If you have high blood pressure, schedule a preconception appointment with the health care provider who'll handle your pregnancy. Also meet with other members of your health care team, such as your family doctor or cardiologist. They'll evaluate how well you're managing your high blood pressure and consider treatment changes you might need to make before pregnancy.

If you're overweight, your health care provider might recommend losing the excess pounds before you try to conceive.

What can I expect during prenatal visits?

During pregnancy, you'll see your health care provider often. Your weight and blood pressure will be checked at every visit, and you might need frequent blood and urine tests.

Your health care provider will closely monitor your baby's health, as well. Frequent ultrasounds might be used to track your baby's growth and development. Fetal heart rate monitoring might be used to evaluate your baby's well-being. Your health care provider might also recommend monitoring your baby's daily movements.

What can I do to reduce the risk of complications?

Taking good care of yourself is the best way to take care of your baby. For example:

  • Keep your prenatal appointments. Visit your health care provider regularly throughout your pregnancy.
  • Take your blood pressure medication as prescribed. Your health care provider will prescribe the safest medication at the most appropriate dose.
  • Stay active. Follow your health care provider's recommendations for physical activity.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Ask to speak with a nutritionist if you need additional help.
  • Know what's off-limits. Avoid smoking, alcohol and illicit drugs. Talk to your health care provider before taking over-the-counter medications.

Researchers continue to study ways to prevent preeclampsia, but so far, no clear strategies have emerged. If you had a hypertensive disorder in a prior pregnancy, your doctor might recommend a daily low-dose aspirin (81 milligrams) beginning late in your first trimester.

What about labor and delivery?

Your health care provider might suggest inducing labor before your due date to avoid complications. The timing of your induction is based both on how well-controlled your blood pressure is, whether you have end-stage organ damage, and whether your baby has complications, such as intrauterine growth restriction due to your hypertension.

If you have preeclampsia with severe features, you might be given medication during labor to help prevent seizures.

Will I be able to breast-feed my baby?

Breast-feeding is encouraged for most women who have high blood pressure, even those who take medication. Discuss medication adjustments you'll need to make with your health care provider before your baby is born. Sometimes an alternate blood pressure medication is recommended.

Your health care provider might also recommend that you avoid breast-feeding right after you take your medication.

Aug. 15, 2017 See more In-depth