High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

Blood pressure is the force at which blood flows through the large blood vessels from the heart. Normal blood pressure is important for good health. It helps your blood vessels, heart, and other organs work properly.

In some people, their blood pressure is too high. This is called hypertension.High blood pressure that starts in pregnancy is called gestational hypertension. No one knows what causes it. Many women with gestational hypertension have not had high blood pressure before. High blood pressure often shows up around the 20th week of pregnancy and usually goes back to normal by the 12th week after you give birth.

Why Blood Pressure is Important

Normal blood pressure is an important part of a healthy pregnancy. Blood pressure affects the amount of blood that goes through the placenta to your baby. The placenta is special tissue that grows in your womb when you are pregnant. It gives your baby the right amount of oxygen and nutrients for normal growth through the umbilical cord.

Most women with high blood pressure during pregnancy have healthy babies. But they do have a higher risk of certain problems. These range from mild to severe and can affect both the mother and her baby. High blood pressure can harm the mother’s heart, kidneys, and other organs. For the baby, it  can cause low birth weight and early delivery.


Hypertension usually has no symptoms. The only way it can be found is through a blood pressure test. Make sure to have regular visits to your healthcare provider for prenatal care. It’s important to find high blood pressure early in pregnancy. If a test shows that you have high blood pressure, you and your baby will need special attention. If you have high blood pressure, you will also have your blood tested for a certain protein. This is to make sure you don’t have a more serious condition called preeclampsia.

Who is at Risk?

Some people are more likely to get gestational hypertension. If you’re age 20 or younger, or age 35 or older, you have a higher risk. Being overweight at the start of your pregnancy puts you at risk. If this is your first pregnancy ever, you may be more likely to have gestational hypertension. Certain health conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, or autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis put you more at risk. Being pregnant with more than one baby can make it more likely. And if you’ve had high blood pressure during other pregnancies, you’re more likely to have it again.


Treatment of gestational hypertension depends on certain factors, including how high your blood pressure is, what week of pregnancy you are in, and how healthy your baby is.

If you have mildly high blood pressure, your healthcare provider may prescribe bed rest and frequent prenatal visits. Bed rest helps lower blood pressure and increases blood flow through the placenta. Lying on your left side can help even more.

If you have severely high blood pressure, you may need to stay in the hospital so you and your baby can be watched.

In some cases, induction of labor or a cesarean delivery may be needed to protect the health of your baby and you. Your healthcare provider will tell you about the best options for you.

Things to Remember

  • Make sure you are at a healthy weight before you get pregnant.
  • Start prenatal care visits to your healthcare provider early in your pregnancy.
  • Don’t miss any of your appointments.
  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly after you give birth. If your blood pressure does not go back to normal after 12 weeks, you may have chronic hypertension. Your healthcare provider will talk with you about treatment.
  • Rest on your left side as often as recommended by your healthcare provider.

It can be stressful to find out you have gestational hypertension. But with care and attention you can have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

What We Have Learned

  1. Gestational hypertension can cause problems for the mother but not the baby. True or false?
    The answer is False. Gestational hypertension can cause an early delivery and low birth weight for the baby.
  2. Gestational hypertension usually has no symptoms. True or false?
    The answer is True. The only sure way to know if you have gestational hypertension is through a blood pressure test by your healthcare provider.
  3. If you have gestational hypertension, lying in bed on your left side can help. True or false?
    The answer is True. Lying down lowers blood pressure, and lying on your left side helps more blood reach the placenta.