During pregnancy, high blood pressure that is not managed properly or is
misdiagnosed can cause a variety of problems for both the mother and the baby.
High blood pressure does not always generate symptoms, but it may cause
headaches, shortness of breath, or changes in vision. Pregnant women should
be on the lookout for any of these signs as well as swelling of the hands
and face or pain in the right upper belly. Mild preeclampsia is also usually
symptom free, but some women experience rapid weight gain and sudden swelling.
Severe preeclampsia can cause symptoms related to organ trouble such as
very bad headaches and trouble seeing and breathing. Some women also experience
belly pain and decreased urination.
Diagnosis & Care
Chronic hypertension is defined as blood pressure exceeding 140/90mm Hg.
If hypertension is first identified prior to the 20th week of pregnancy,
the increase can usually be attributed to chronic hypertension. Elevated
blood pressure after the 20th week of pregnancy is usually attributed
to preeclampsia, which occurs in 5% of all pregnancies. Unfortunately,
there is no single test to diagnose preeclampsia, but regular prenatal
care allows medical professionals to track blood pressure and levels of
protein in urine.
The costs associated with high blood pressure during pregnancy vary. According
to the National High Blood Pressure Education Program, maternal hypertension
does not usually increase a woman’s risk for developing chronic
hypertension later in life. Generally, increases in blood pressure go
away within six weeks after delivery. However, if hypertension does not
go away, medication and regular doctor visits may be necessary.
Analyses of hospital discharge data done by Hawaii’s Family Health
Services Division show that hospital charges among pregnant women with
high blood pressure are significantly higher compared to those without
high blood pressure. The median charge per day for both newborns and mothers
was higher compared to births when the mother did not have high blood pressure.
Failure by physicians to see the signs of maternal hypertension or preeclampsia
can result in injury or death to the mother and the child. If you believe
that a physician handled you or a family member’s hypertension negligently,
causing injury or death, your family may be eligible for compensation.
medical malpractice lawyers for a free consultation.
There are a variety of medications that effectively treat hypertension.
If hypertension is diagnosed before pregnancy, a woman should get her
blood pressure under control before becoming pregnant. Once blood pressure
is under control, a woman should inform her doctor if she is trying to
get pregnant because not all medications are safe to use during pregnancy.
Experts currently recommend avoiding angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE)
inhibitors and Angiotensin II (AII) receptor antagonists during pregnancy.
Women should not stop taking hypertension medication unless directed by
their doctor. There is no proven way to prevent preeclampsia, but women
who develop symptoms should be closely monitored. The only way to “cure”
preeclampsia is to deliver the baby.
Books & Resources
For more information on maternal hypertension, the following resources