Chronic hypertension is defined as blood pressure above 140/90 mm Hg that is present before pregnancy or that develops before 20 weeks of gestation. Although chronic hypertension does not directly affect a woman’s ability to become pregnant, risk factors of developing hypertension, including obesity and being over the age of 40, are known to affect fertility.
Additionally, it’s important to seek proper care to manage chronic hypertension when pregnant, as this condition may cause serious health complications and health risks to you or your developing baby.
Complications Associated With Chronic High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
Chronic hypertension may cause complications for the mother as a result of additional stress on the kidneys and the heart. This may increase the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke as well as other complications such as preeclampsia and cesarean delivery.
When high blood pressure develops after twenty weeks of pregnancy, there is protein in the urine, or other signs that organs aren’t working properly, this is a sign of preeclampsia. When a pregnant woman develops preeclampsia after already having high blood pressure, this is called superimposed preeclampsia.
Hypertension may cause complications for the fetus as well. This includes:
● Restriction of fetal growth – High blood pressure may restrict the flow of blood to the placenta, resulting in fewer nutrients and oxygen delivered to the fetus. This may cause the fetus to grow more slowly than usual and have a low birth weight.
● Preterm delivery – If fetal restriction is inhibiting oxygen and nutrients from reaching your baby, early delivery may be necessary. Premature birth may cause long-term health risks for your child as well as developmental problems as the child still develops in the womb until full term.
● Placental abruption – Placental abruption occurs when the placenta detaches from the uterus prematurely or before childbirth. This incident can be life threatening for both the mother and child.
● Increased risk of birth defects – Chronic high blood pressure with superimposed preeclampsia has been proven to increase the risk of birth defects, such as cleft lip, renal and limb deformations, and neural tube deformations.
Seek Care Before Conception
If you have chronic hypertension, consult your doctor before getting pregnant in a preconception appointment. If you’re managing a chronic condition, it’s important to discuss your medical history, as well as any medications you’re taking, with your doctor before getting pregnant.
Depending on your family medical history, your doctor may present you with the option of performing a preconception health test. Working with your doctor will allow you to closely manage your health and the health of your baby in order to better ensure a healthy pregnancy. Preconception planning is a time to include healthy discussion with your doctor. Learning about who you can manage any existing complications will help limit problems that may arise in your family planning.