If you’re experiencing hypertension during your pregnancy, you are surely not alone. It is the most common medical disorder in pregnant women. Its more serious forms are actually one of the major causes of pregnancy-related deaths in the US. There are a few different classifications of hypertensive disorders that might complicate or come about during your pregnancy, and it is important to know the difference.

The first type of hypertension in pregnancy is chronic hypertension. If you have an increased blood pressure before week 20, or already know that you have hypertension, then you are suffering from chronic hypertension. If your hypertension lasts more than 12 weeks after your pregnancy, you are also in this group.

The second type is preeclampsia or eclampsia. With this condition, you won’t develop hypertension until mid-pregnancy, and in addition to high blood pressure, you’ll experience a urinary protein level of more than 300mg every day, called proteinuria. If you develop preeclampsia on top of your pre-existing hypertension, you are in a category of your own. In this category, women often have onsets of proteinuria for the first time, but have already experienced hypertension before and during their pregnancy.

The last type of hypertension that you might experience during pregnancy is simply called gestational hypertension. This condition is characterized by temporary hypertension that appears after mid-pregnancy, no proteinuria, and a blood pressure that returns to normal after the baby is born. Gestational hypertension essentially lasts for the duration of your pregnancy and ends soon after birth.

Though these types of hypertension are varying, their consequences and complications are similar. If you’re diagnosed, your baby will only be affected by minor, short-term complications. Hypertension during pregnancy can lead to more frequent induced labor, fetal growth restriction and neonatal respiratory difficulties. Even in the most severe cases, hypertension rarely causes perinatal death. Women who had hypertension during pregnancy are much more likely to develop long-term consequences. Some of these more serious side effects may include cardiovascular complications, renal disease and cancer.

While completely preventing the onset of hypertension during pregnancy is usually impossible, treatments do exist to minimize risk for both you and your baby. The kind of treatment will vary depending on the type of hypertension you are experiencing. Maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and having a baby long before menopause are the best ways to increase your chances of avoiding hypertension in your pregnancy.

Source: Reem Mustafa, Sana Ahmed, Anu Gupta, and Rocco C. Venuto,: A Comprehensive Review of Hypertension in Pregnancy, Journal of Pregnancy, vol. 2012, 19 pages, 2012.