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How Does High Blood Pressure Affect My Pregnancy?

Blood pressure is the force of blood pressing against the walls of blood vessels known as arteries. These arteries then bring blood from the heart to the lungs, where it picks up oxygen before moving to the organs and tissues. The organs and tissues use this oxygen to power their daily activities. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition that occurs when the force of blood pushing through the arteries is too great. This condition is always serious and needs monitoring under the best of circumstances, but especially in at-risk populations and those who are pregnant.


This is because high blood pressure can cause serious health complications for both the pregnant mother and the developing fetus, such as placental abruption, cardiovascular disease, and more. Some women have high blood pressure before they get pregnant, while others develop it for the first time during pregnancy or soon after childbirth. To help you get a better understanding of how high blood pressure affects your pregnancy, we'll be reviewing the multiple types of high blood pressure during pregnancy, the various risks posed by this condition, signs and symptoms, and your options for treatment. If you are at all concerned with the impact that high blood pressure may be having or will have on your pregnancy, don't hesitate to consult Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC, the best cardiologist in Tampa.


Related: High Blood Pressure: What Expectant Mothers Need to Know

What Are the Different Types of High Blood Pressure Conditions Before, During, & After Pregnancy?

In the United States, high blood pressure impacts approximately 1 in every 12 to 17 pregnancies among women ages 20 to 44. That's nearly 10 percent of all pregnancies. For that reason, it's important to make yourself aware of the several different types of high blood pressure during pregnancy. Below, the best cardiologist in the Tampa Bay Area goes into detail regarding each of these conditions.

Chronic Hypertension

Chronic hypertension is high blood pressure that was present prior to the pregnancy or that develops in the first half of pregnancy (before 20 weeks of pregnancy). If you were taking blood pressure medication before you got pregnant, even if your blood pressure is currently normal, you will be diagnosed with chronic hypertension. Because high blood pressure typically doesn't have any symptoms, some women may have had this condition long before becoming pregnant but didn't know it until they had their blood pressure checked at their prenatal visit.

Gestational Hypertension

Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure that develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy. There is no excess protein in the urine or other signs of organ damage, and the condition typically goes away within 12 weeks after childbirth. However, some women with gestational hypertension do have a higher chance of developing chronic hypertension in the future. In order to be diagnosed with gestational hypertension, a patient must meet the following conditions:


  • The patient must have a systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher or a diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher

  • The first instance of high blood pressure must happen after 20 weeks

  • The patient must have had normal blood pressure prior to pregnancy


Preeclampsia is a serious disorder capable of affecting all organs in a woman's body that typically develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy, usually in the third trimester. This condition is characterized by a sudden increase in blood pressure, protein in the urine, and generalized swelling. Untreated preeclampsia can lead to serious, or even fatal, complications for the expectant mother and baby, including the development of seizures.


Related: Hypertension: the "Silent Killer"

What Problems Can High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy Cause?

The extent to which high blood pressure will affect the expectant mother or fetus will depend on the condition. Chronic hypertension may lead to heart disease and kidney disease, while preeclampsia may lead to seizures and strokes. This is why it's important to be seen and monitored by the best heart doctor in Tampa throughout your pregnancy. Other various problems posed by high blood pressure during pregnancy include the following:


  • Premature birth

  • Placental abruption

  • Poor fetal growth

  • Stillbirth

  • HELLP syndrome

  • Cesarean birth


What Are the Signs and Symptoms of High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy?

For the purposes of this article, we'll be discussing the symptoms of preeclampsia rather than chronic hypertension or gestational hypertension because high blood pressure usually does not cause symptoms. Preeclampsia, however, typically does. Common symptoms of preeclampsia that you may experience after 20 weeks of pregnancy include: 


  • Severe headaches that don't go away

  • Changes in vision, such as temporary loss of vision or sensitivity to light

  • Upper abdominal pain, usually under your ribs on the right side

  • Nausea or vomiting

  • Shortness of breath

  • Sudden weight gain

  • Swelling in your hands and feet


It's worth noting that some women may have no symptoms of preeclampsia, which is why it's important for you to regularly visit your healthcare provider, especially during pregnancy.

What Are Your Options for Treatment?

Fortunately, high blood pressure during pregnancy can be treated in a variety of ways depending on the severity, cause, and time of onset. For starters, your obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn) should check your blood pressure at each prenatal care visit. After that, steps to help your chances of having a safe and healthy delivery include:


  • Taking any blood pressure medication as prescribed

  • Maintaining a healthy diet (low-sodium foods are recommended)

  • Keeping track of your blood pressure at home with a home blood pressure monitor

  • Following the instructions of a Tampa heart doctor regarding activity and exercise


If you are more than 37 weeks pregnant when you are diagnosed with preeclampsia, your healthcare provider will likely want to deliver the baby. If you are less than 37 weeks pregnant, your options may be limited to monitoring the health of you and your baby. Some women take medication or receive steroid injections, while others may need nothing at all. Always consult with a cardiologist and your ob-gyn before making a decision.


To consult Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC, the best cardiologist in Tampa, please call (813) 344-0934 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. 


Disclaimer: The contents of this website are for general educational purposes only. All content and media on the Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC website does not constitute professional medical advice nor is the information intended to replace the services of Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC or other qualified medical professionals. If you believe you are having a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.


The content, views, and opinions communicated on this website do not represent the views of Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC. Reliance on any information provided by this website is solely at your own risk. Although this website contains links to other medical websites, this is strictly for informational purposes. Jesal V. Popat, M.D., FACC is not responsible nor does the medical practice approve of the content featured on any third party linked websites referenced on this website. 

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