It’s important for pregnant women to look after their own health as well as the health of their unborn child, and many expecting mothers are at an increased risk of serious health conditions like diabetes and hypertension. Pregnancy-induced hypertension, or PIH, affects 5-7 percent of pregnant women and can cause considerable health complications if left untreated.
Blood pressure is a measurement of how much pressure the force of the blood pumped by the heart is exerting on the walls of the arteries. A high blood pressure reading means that the heart is working harder than it should, putting the patient at an increased risk of heart failure or a stroke. Common symptoms of pregnancy-induced hypertension include:
- Being over 20 weeks pregnant with a higher-than-normal blood pressure reading
- Being under age 20 or over age 35
- Being pregnant with multiple babies
- Feeling sluggish
- Breathing problems
- Pain above the stomach
- Swelling of the hands, face, ankles, or feet
- Vision disturbances
- Gaining 3-5 pounds within one week
Though PIH often disappears after the baby is born, it’s a serious concern during pregnancy because it is often an indicator that the mother is in the early stages of preeclampsia – a condition characterized by protein in the urine and fluid retention. This signals that the mother’s kidneys are not functioning properly. Preeclampsia can also cause low birth weight, premature birth and stillbirths, so women with these two conditions must be monitored closely.
Cardiovascular doctors Panama City FL define PIH as a blood pressure reading that’s A) higher than 140/90, or B) reads 30mg Hg systolic (the larger number) or 15 mg Hg diastolic higher (the smaller number) than the woman’s last blood pressure reading. Though it’s unknown what causes pregnancy-induced hypertension, research suggests that several factors could play a role:
- Family history – having a mother or a sister with PIH significantly increases a woman’s risk.
- Diet (insufficient calories, calcium, protein, or zinc).
- Problems with the placenta.
- Problems with the mother’s immune system.
Blood pressure cannot be controlled externally, but it’s important to monitor it constantly to avoid putting the unborn baby at risk. Your OB/GYN may recommend bed rest, constant checking of your weight and vital signs, increased testing for the baby, and medication.
For more information on high blood pressure and cardiovascular health, contact a cardiologist Panama City FL.