HEDUAfrica - Pregnancy information

What a pregnant woman should know about high blood pressure

  • Having high blood pressure in pregnancy can be very serious. It is important that you go to the antenatal clinic regularly during your pregnancy so that your blood pressure can be checked.

    WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

    Having high blood pressure in your pregnancy is a serious condition called pre-eclampsia (also known as toxemia). It can make the mother very ill and cause the baby not to grow very well.

    The easiest way to know if you have pre-eclampsia is for the doctor or nurse to take your blood pressure and check your urine. It is important to know as soon as possible if your blood pressure is getting higher, otherwise the high blood pressure may cause the mother to have a fit and both the mother and baby can die.

    WHAT SHOULD I DO?

    • Book at the antenatal clinic as soon as you think or know that you are pregnant.
    • Go to all your clinic appointments during your pregnancy.
    • At the clinic, the nurses or doctor will measure your blood pressure and test your urine for protein (this will show them if your kidneys are still healthy).
    • Taking your blood pressure is not painful and only takes 2 minutes. We only put a cuff around your arm and there are no needles.
    • Your urine sample will be checked in 1 minute using a urine dipstix.

    High blood pressure in women before and after giving birth.
    High blood pressure
     

  • You can get high blood pressure in pregnancy even if you have never had it before

    WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

    Any woman who is pregnant can get high blood pressure.  In some women the blood pressure will rise very slowly; in other women, the blood pressure will rise very quickly.  Some women are more likely than others to get pre-eclampsia:

    • If this is the first time you are pregnant
    • If you are overweight
    • If you had high blood pressure before you became pregnant
    • If you are expecting twins or triplets
    • If you have blood sugar or kidney problems
    • If you are very young (<20yrs) or older than 35 years old.
    • If you’ve had pre-eclampsia before

    WHAT SHOULD I DO?

    • Go to the clinic for all your appointments while you are pregnant (in the beginning this will be every month and then more often closer to the baby’s due date).
    • It is important that we check your blood pressure and urine every time you come to the clinic, as pre-eclampsia can develop at any time in your pregnancy and it can get worse very slowly or very quickly.

    High blood pressure in women before and after giving birth.
    High blood pressure
      

  • Some women feel healthy even if they have high blood pressure. Other women experience symptoms such as: really bad headaches, swelling of the hands, feet and/or face; pain at the top of your stomach; seeing stars/flashing lights

    WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

    If you have pre-eclampsia in your pregnancy, you may still be feeling healthy, despite having a very high blood pressure.  Other women start to experience symptoms such as:

    • Headaches
    • Swelling of the hands, feet and/or face
    • Pain at the top of their stomach
    • Seeing stars / having blurry vision

    These symptoms could indicate that the blood pressure is very serious and you should not delay going to the clinic so that the doctors/nurses can check that mother and baby are ok.

    WHAT SHOULD I DO?

    Go to the clinic for all your antenatal appointments.  Do not stay away from the clinic because you are feeling healthy. 

    If you experience one or more of the symptoms mentioned, go the clinic as soon as you can. 

    Do not wait for your next appointment!

    High blood pressure in women before and after giving birth.
    High blood pressure
      

  • If you have pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure in pregnancy), you will need to stay in the hospital so that your blood pressure can be checked often, for you and your baby’s safety

    WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

    There is no treatment for pre-eclampsia. There is some medication available that could help to bring down the mother’s blood pressure and that will not harm the baby. 

    In some women, the medication does not help to get the blood pressure lower. If the blood pressure continues to get higher, the only solution is for the baby to be born. If the baby is not born, the mother’s blood pressure will continue to go up and this may cause her to have a fit or a stroke and die together with the baby.

    Once the baby is born, the mother’s blood pressure usually returns to normal.

    WHAT SHOULD I DO?

    Depending on how high the blood pressure is and how quickly it is going up, the mother may be admitted to hospital. 

    This will mean that the doctors and nurses can see immediately if the mother’s blood pressure is still rising and will help them to make decisions, in order to ensure that the mother and baby will be healthy. 

    In most women who have pre-eclampsia their blood pressure will return to normal once the baby has been born. 

    A small number of women will still have high blood pressure after their pregnancy and will need to take regular medication to keep their blood pressure normal.

    High blood pressure in women before and after giving birth.
    High blood pressure
      

 

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