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 be handling 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 any 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. Choose foods low in sodium.
  • Know what's off-limits. Avoid smoking, alcohol and illicit drugs. Talk to your health care provider before taking any over-the-counter medications.

Researchers continue to study ways to prevent preeclampsia, but so far, no clear strategies have emerged. If you had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy that resulted in delivery before 34 weeks' gestation or you had preeclampsia in more than one previous pregnancy, your doctor might recommend a daily low-dose aspirin — between 60 and 81 milligrams — beginning late in your first trimester.

What about labor and delivery?

Your health care provider might suggest inducing labor a few days before your due date to avoid complications. If you develop preeclampsia or other complications, induction might be needed even earlier. If you have severe preeclampsia, you might be given medication during labor to help prevent seizures. In some cases, a C-section might be needed.

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 any medication adjustments you'll need to make with your health care provider ahead of time. 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.

July 29, 2014 See more In-depth