Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension

Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension

What You Need to know about High Blood Pressure during Pregnancy

Have you noticed that your hands and face are swelling more? Are you having headaches or dizziness? Has your weight gain increased suddenly?

These are all potential indicators of what is known as pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH). If you need to know when to call your provider or you have just been diagnosed with PIH or preeclampsia, here is more information for you.

How common is Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension (PIH)?

PIH occurs in about 5% of all pregnancies. However if you already have a history of chronic hypertension prior to becoming pregnant, the risk of getting PIH is about 25%.

What is the difference between PIH and preeclampsia?

Another term that is commonly referred to that is related to PIH is known as preeclampsia. Here are the differences between the two:

  • PIH is when the mother develops high blood pressure during pregnancy without any prior history of hypertension and without developing protein in her urine.
  • Preeclampsia is when the mother develops PIH as well as other symptoms such as the presence of protein in her urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Depending on the symptoms, preeclampsia can be considered to be mild or severe.

How can I tell if I have preeclampsia?

Here are several symptoms that you may notice with preeclampsia. Should you notice any of these signs, contact your care provider:

  1. Swelling in face, hands/fingers, puffiness around the eyes
  2. Headaches
  3. Visual changes such as blurred vision or seeing spots
  4. Sudden weight gain (more than 1 pound or .5kg in one week in the second and third trimesters)

In order to confirm a diagnosis of preeclampsia or PIH, your care provider will also be checking your blood pressure, reflexes, and examining your urine for the presence of protein.

If I am an older mother, am I more likely to develop PIH?

You are more likely to develop PIH during your pregnancy if you are either under 19 or over 40. Also it is more common for you to develop PIH if this is your first baby, if you already have renal disease, diabetes or chronic hypertension, if you are carrying twins or if you have a family history of PIH.

How is PIH or preeclampsia treated?

If you have transient PIH or symptoms of mild preeclampsia, it is likely your care provider will recommend bed rest, especially lying on your left side, to improve circulation and reduce your blood pressure. Here are a number of other ways, in addition to bed rest, to help you manage mild preeclampsia at home in the last few week of pregnancy:

  • Drink at least 8 glasses of fluids per day
  • Add fiber to your diet to prevent constipation.
  • Do gentle stretching exercises of your legs, feet, arms and hands to improve circulation and increase muscle tone.
  • Keep your mind active by reading, doing puzzles, using your laptop for online correspondence, or do crafts, photo albums, etc..
  • Keep a cordless phone or your cell phone near the bed to call family and friends.
  • Recruit family and friends to help with laundry, shopping and preparing the nursery.

In some cases, if your symptoms become severe, your care provider may recommend medications to lower your blood pressure and other medications such as magnesium sulfate to reduce your chance of having a seizure. In some cases, an induction of labor may be recommended.

Are there ways to prevent PIH or preeclampsia?

While there is no documented evidence that PIH can be prevented, there is some compelling information regarding the mother’s diet and increasing the amount of protein.

If you are concerned that you have symptoms that might be related to PIH, please contact your care provider as soon as possible.

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