Hypertension is recognized as one of the most common pregnancy complications. Hypertension occurs in as many as 10% of all pregnancies and can cause stress on both the mother and the fetus.
Hypertension in pregnancy has several known causes. Chronic hypertension and Preeclampsia/Eclampsia are the two most common causes of elevated blood pressure occurring during pregnancy. The exact causes of preeclampsia and eclampsia are unknown, but are thought to be linked to the implantation phase of the pregnancy. When the fetus implants in the uterus, the blood vessels are normally calm and functioning properly. In women who experience, pregnancy induced hypertension, these same vessels constrict causing the blood pressure to rise.
At every prenatal checkup, the nurse will take the vital signs of mom. If the blood pressure readings consistently rise or measure about 140/90 mmHG, pregnancy induced hypertension is diagnosed.
Women who get pregnancy before the age of 20 or after the age of 35 are more commonly diagnosed with pregnancy induced hypertension. A history of diabetes, hypertension, twin or triplet birth and being of African descent can all cause an increase in the chances of exhibiting hypertension during pregnancy.
There are three types of pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH). These include:
Gestational hypertension is the most common form of pregnancy induced hypertension. The pregnant mom will most often be diagnosed with gestational hypertension in the last trimester of the pregnancy and exhibit only an elevated blood pressure reading as a symptom.
Preeclampsia offers the same symptoms and diagnosis time frame as gestational hypertension. Protein will also be found in the urine during the normal prenatal urine screen.
Eclampsia is diagnosed late in the pregnancy and is the most serious of all forms of pregnancy induced hypertension. The mother-to-be can suffer from seizures and end up in a coma if left untreated.
The symptoms of pregnancy induced hypertension will include an elevated blood pressure reading, swelling of the face and neck, protein in urine, weight gain beyond normal pregnancy weight gain, vision impairment, headaches, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting.
Complications surrounding the hypertension can include, leaking blood vessels in various parts of the body. When the blood vessels leak swelling, shortness of breath, swelling of the liver, and liver damage can occur. Leaking protein into the kidneys can affect the birth weight of baby.
After the baby is born, the signs and symptoms of pregnancy induced hypertension will most often disappear. The effects of the high blood pressure, however, can last far beyond the pregnancy. The organs damaged by the high blood pressure during the pregnancy may not be able to heal and the mother may be left with illnesses after birth related to that damage. Vision problems, liver illness, brain damage and HELLP syndrome can all be diagnosed after birth related to hypertension during the pregnancy.