Pregnancy and you blog

High blood pressure in pregnancy: What's your story?

By Mary M. Murry, R.N., C.N.M. November 8, 2012

Blood pressure tends to fluctuate during pregnancy.

For example, it's normal to experience a drop in blood pressure during the second trimester. In fact, your blood pressure might be lower than it's ever been. During the third trimester, a gradual increase in blood pressure is common.

Sometimes, though, blood pressure changes more dramatically — or sustained high blood pressure becomes a concern.

By definition, there are various types of high blood pressure during pregnancy:

  • Chronic hypertension. If high blood pressure develops before pregnancy or during pregnancy but before 20 weeks, it's known as chronic hypertension. High blood pressure that lasts more than 12 weeks after delivery is also considered chronic hypertension.
  • Gestational hypertension. If high blood pressure develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy, it's known as gestational hypertension. Gestational hypertension usually goes away after delivery.
  • Preeclampsia. Sometimes chronic hypertension or gestational hypertension leads to preeclampsia. This is a serious condition characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

All of these conditions can be dangerous for you and your baby. If your pregnancy has been normal until now, a diagnosis of high blood pressure can be especially jarring.

Depending on the circumstances, your health care provider might recommend close monitoring or, in some cases, an early delivery.

Count on your health care provider to help you understand what's happening and what you can do to promote a healthy outcome. Above all, don't hesitate to ask questions. Being fully informed can help you make the best decisions for you and your baby.

Nov. 08, 2012