Story by: Norton Healthcare; Reviewed by Li Zhou, M.D., Ph.D. on August 16, 2023
The risks of high blood pressure while pregnant have prompted a panel of medical experts to recommend all pregnant people get blood pressure screenings at every prenatal visit.
The draft recommendation by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel that makes evidence-based recommendations about ways to prevent disease, advises that all pregnant people, regardless of hypertension history, have their blood pressure measured throughout their pregnancy.
“It’s very important for women to have their blood pressure monitored, especially during pregnancy,” said Li Zhou, M.D., Ph.D., medical director, Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Women’s Heart Program. “Having hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, during pregnancy can cause a life-or-death situation for both mother and baby.”
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Issues caused by high blood pressure, including preeclampsia, and eclampsia, are among the top causes of the rising maternal mortality rate in the United States. High blood pressure while pregnant also increases the risk of low birth weight and possibly can lead to preterm delivery.
In addition, high blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, congestive heart failure, stroke, and kidney injury. Over the long term, high blood pressure during pregnancy can lead to a life time of hypertension and resulting in an increased risk of having cardiovascular diseases.
Hypertension that begins during pregnancy is defined as systolic pressure equal to or greater than 140 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) or diastolic blood pressure equal to or greater than 90 mmHg.
“If a woman is planning to become pregnant and she has a history of hypertension, there are important measures that can be taken,” Dr. Zhou said. “Talking to her OB/GYN and even establishing a relationship with the Norton Heart & Vascular Institute Women’s Heart Program can be very important to ensure a successful pregnancy.”
Norton Women’s Care OB/GYNs work closely with the Women’s Heart Program, Norton Children’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine and other specialists, so patients benefit from multiple viewpoints and areas of expertise.
A hypertension disorder affects 1 out of every 7 deliveries in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Patients who are Black, American Indian or Alaska Native, as well as those who are older, are more at risk.
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