their blood pressure is measured at each check-up. Your midwife or doctor will check your blood pressure to be sure that it is within the normal range. This is an important part of taking care of you and your baby during pregnancy.
How does my blood pressure change during pregnancy?Your blood pressure changes a little during the entire pregnancy. That's absolutely normal. The pregnancy hormone progesterone relaxes the walls of your blood vessels. This can cause your blood pressure to drop in the first and second trimesters (CKS 2006). This lower blood pressure causes some women to become dizzy after standing for long periods or getting up quickly.
Your blood pressure is lowest between the 18th and 20th week of gestation. At that time, you produced an extra liter of blood that your heart needs to pump through your body. You need this extra blood as a means of transport to get enough nutrients and oxygen through the placenta and umbilical cord to your baby. It also disposes of the baby's leftovers. Your blood pressure will return to pre-pregnancy levels in the last few weeks before your baby's birth.
How is my blood pressure measured?Your blood pressure is measured and recorded with a small gauge called a sphygmomanometer. Modern devices work electronically - so-called digital sphygmomanometers. Your blood pressure is measured at each check-up.
Before your blood pressure is measured, you need to sit down and clear your arm. The midwife or your doctor wraps a cuff above your elbow around your arm and pumps air into the cuff.
The cuff inflates and stops blood flow in the main blood vessels in your arm for a short time. It feels tight to your arm, but it should not hurt. Then the air is slowly let out. The cuff is connected to the sphygmomanometer, which measures your blood pressure and displays the result.
Two values are read after the measurement: the systolic value is measured during the heartbeat, the diastolic value between the heart beats. Therefore, your blood pressure always consists of two values, for example 110/70. What is normal for you can look very different with another expectant mother. So do not try to compare the values!
Health experts are particularly interested in the diastolic value (the second, lower number) during pregnancy.It can be assumed that the average blood pressure for a healthy young woman is 110/70 to 120/80. However, these values vary greatly during pregnancy. If your blood pressure is over 140/90 more than twice a week, and you normally have normal blood pressure, your doctor will check if there is any pre-eclampsia.
There is not much you can do to lower your blood pressure. However, if you have early signs of pre-eclampsia, you should rest as often as possible and try not to get angry at things like your job. (Follow our tips on how to reduce stress during pregnancy).
Why is my blood pressure being measured?The reason for the regular blood pressure checks is that your doctor wants to get a picture of what's normal for you. This is important because a single high measurement may prove insignificant. Maybe you were just stressed out or just a bit relieved. If your doctor suspects that the blood pressure is too high, he / she will measure it a second time to confirm the suspicion.
He / she especially looks for signs of pre-eclampsia later in your pregnancy. It is believed that preeclampsia occurs when the placenta is not working properly. Your doctor will examine your urine and measure your blood pressure. Proteins in your urine and high blood pressure are both signs of preeclampsia.
When your blood pressure starts to rise, your doctor will worry about your further treatment. These could be more frequent checkups or the administration of medication. If your urine has protein, you may be in an early stage of preeclampsia, and you will often have to go to regular prebirth checks.
Pre-eclampsia belongs to the group of gestoses. These are diseases that only occur during pregnancy. In the case of pre-eclampsia, the person has excessive blood pressure and excretes too much protein via their urine.
According to the Leipzig University Hospital, an average of five to eight percent of all pregnant women suffer from pre-eclampsia. In about ten percent of all women, blood pressure increases during pregnancy. This can be treated relatively uncomplicated. It is more difficult when in addition to a pathologically increased blood pressure protein is excreted in the urine and fluid retention (edema) in the body. Read more facts about preeclampsia here.
High blood pressure has different names. That depends on the stage of your pregnancy when you develop it:
- If you have high blood pressure before the 20th week of pregnancy, it is called essential or chronic hypertension. This means that you probably already had high blood pressure before you became pregnant (CKS 2006).You only know exactly if this is the case if your blood pressure stays high after the birth of your baby.
- After the 20th week, high blood pressure is called gestational hypertension, pregnancy-induced hypertension, pregnancy hypertension, or gestational hypertension. This is simply a term for high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy.
If you're at an early stage of pre-eclampsia, you'll need more checkups to make sure you and your baby stay healthy. You are advised to rest and you may be given medicines that will not harm your baby to control your blood pressure (RCOG 2006, NCCWCH 2008: 227).
Does my blood pressure drop after birth?If you get high blood pressure after SSW 19, it's likely to return to normal levels after your baby's birth. But that can take a few weeks.
Your blood pressure is measured at least once within six hours of your baby's birth (NICE 2006). If you had gestational hypertension, it will be measured about every four hours thereafter (NICE 2006). If your blood pressure remains high, you may need medication to control it several months after birth (RCOG 2006).
If you've had high blood pressure before, you may need to take medication. This explains why your blood pressure will probably not drop after birth. Doctors recommend controlling high blood pressure through medication. High blood pressure for years can increase the risk of heart problems and stroke later in life (CKS 2009).
Five Ways to Stay Healthy
- Do not take a prenatal check-up, no matter how good you feel.
- Make sure your blood pressure and urine are tested at each check.
- Call your doctor if you feel unwell between two preventive appointments.
- Listen to the advice of the professionals - even if bed rest is recommended.
- If your blood pressure rises and you need to do extra checks or hospitalization for a while, always remember that it's as much about your baby as it is about your own.
Baker P, Balen A, Poston L, et al. 2007. Obesity and reproductive health - study group statement. London: RCOG Press. www. rcog. org. uk [pdf-file, as of March 2010]
CKS. 2006. Hypertension in pregnancy. Clinical Knowledge Summaries, Clinical topic. www. cks. nhs. uk [as of March 2010]
CKS. 2009. Hypertension in people who do not have diabetes mellitus. Clinical Knowledge Summaries, Clinical topic. www. cks. nhs. uk [as of March 2010]
Duley L. 2009. Pre-eclampsia, eclampsia and hypertension. Clinical Evidence. clinicalevidence. bmj. com [as of March 2010]
NICE. 2006. Routine postnatal care of women and their babies. National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence, Clinical Guideline, 37. www. nice. org. [pdf-file, as of March 2010]
NCCWCH. 2008. Antenatal care: routine care for the healthy pregnant woman. National Collaborating Center for Women's and Children's Health, Clinical Guideline. London: RCOG Press. www. nice. org. [pdf file, as of March 2010]
RCOG. 2006. The management of severe pre-eclampsia / eclampsia. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Green-top guideline, 10a. London: RCOG press. www. rcog. org. uk [pdf-file, as of March 2010]
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