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441 US 130,

East Windsor, NJ 08520

(609) 336-7518

09AM to 05PM EST

Signs and Symptoms of Hypertension in Pregnancy

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a common medical condition that can happen during pregnancy. It is known as gestational hypertension or pregnancy-induced hypertension. This condition affects up to 10% of expectant mothers.

If not managed properly, it can cause complications for both mother and baby. Pregnant women must know the signs and symptoms of hypertension in pregnancy, get good care, and take steps to prevent it.

What Is Gestational Hypertension?

Gestational hypertension refers specifically to high blood pressure that develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure was normal before conception.

It usually resolves after delivery and does not leave lasting effects. However, it can be dangerous if severe and leads to a serious condition called preeclampsia.

Doctors don’t know the exact causes of gestational hypertension, but potential risk factors include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Carrying more than one baby
  • Having diabetes, kidney disease, or autoimmune disorders
  • Being over the age of 40
  • Having a family history of pregnancy-related hypertension

Recognizing Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

Many women feel completely normal when they develop gestational hypertension. Regular prenatal checkups, including blood pressure readings, are the only way to know. That’s why frequent monitoring throughout pregnancy is so vital.

Let’s now discuss the common signs and symptoms of hypertension in pregnancy.

1. Swelling

Mild swelling of the hands and feet is common during pregnancy. But sudden or excessive swelling of the face and fingers can signal high blood pressure. 

This edema swelling may indicate fluid building up in body tissues faster than the kidneys can remove. Swelling accompanied by other symptoms warrants rapid medical care to address hypertension.

2. Headaches

Pregnancy headaches without other symptoms are not necessarily serious. But frequent headaches (especially if severe and not relieved by acetaminophen) can go hand-in-hand with high blood pressure. A headache that comes on suddenly or is localized to the front of the head can be especially concerning.

3. Sudden Weight Gain

The osmotic effect of hyperglycemia causes fluids from tissues to be pulled into blood vessels. It leads to swelling and shape changes in the eyes’ lenses, resulting in blurred and fluctuating vision. The effect is temporary but very uncomfortable, making tasks like reading tricky.

Vision may be very sharp soon after eating but noticeably decline as blood sugar spikes afterward. Eyeglasses may require frequent prescription adjustments to account for glucose variability.

4. Vision Changes

Seeing spots or flashing lights, double vision, and blurred vision can all stem from high blood pressure affecting the eyes. 

Extremely high pressure can lead to swelling of the retinas and fluid accumulation behind them, resulting in visual disturbances. Vision changes demand emergency care.

5. Nausea and Vomiting

Some nausea is extremely common in early pregnancy. However, frequent vomiting later than 20 weeks can signal hypertension-related complications, like preeclampsia. 

It could mean organs like the liver are stressed from high pressure. Upper abdominal pain on the right side also warrants rapid medical assessment, along with unrelieved vomiting.

Related, What are the Top 10 Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

Hypertension in Pregnancy

Additional Warning Signs

Less common symptoms associated with seriously high blood pressure in pregnancy include:

  • Breathlessness at rest
  • Racing heartbeat (more than 100 bpm at rest)
  • Reduced urination or concentrated urine noticeably dark in color
  • A general feeling of illness (fatigue, confusion)
  • Severe swelling that doesn’t resolve with rest

Dangers and Complications

If undiagnosed or uncontrolled, gestational hypertension can endanger both expectant moms and their babies. Some potential health threats include:

For mothers

  • Worsening high blood pressure, progressing to preeclampsia
  • Placental abruption – the placenta separating from the uterine wall
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Heart problems or respiratory distress
  • Kidney dysfunction

For infants

  • Preterm delivery
  • Low birth weight
  • Respiratory distress at birth
  • Stillbirth

Maternal hypertension jeopardizes health and needs competent treatment. Catching it early and following doctor’s orders can allow pregnancy to continue more safely. 

Delivering earlier than full-term may become necessary. However, the critical thing is addressing escalated pressures before lasting damage or loss of life occurs.

Related Health Problems With High Blood Pressure

Dangers and Complications

Getting Diagnosed and Monitored

Doctors diagnose gestational hypertension based on blood pressure exceeding 140/90 mm Hg on two occasions at least four hours apart, arising after 20 weeks. 

Protein in urine can also indicate hypertension. Definitive diagnosis requires ruling out other conditions that elevate pressure, like thyroid disorders.

Once diagnosed, frequent monitoring and often medication are needed to control blood pressure for the duration of pregnancy. Blood and urine tests also monitor strain on organs like kidneys. 

Fetal ultrasounds help evaluate infant growth and well-being. Depending on test results and risk factors, Doctors may recommend additional interventions (like early delivery).

Working closely with prenatal care providers allows the best chance of adequately controlling pressure levels. Awareness of daily evident and subtle symptom changes also aids diagnosis and treatment. 

Tracking symptoms helps gauge if medication dosages need adjustment. Marked worsening of symptoms means immediately consulting a doctor – take your time with the next appointment.

Treatment Options and Lifestyle Changes

Upon being diagnosed with gestational hypertension, doctors typically recommend:

  • More frequent prenatal visits, like twice weekly
  • Plenty of rest and stress avoidance
  • Protein intake around 100-120g daily
  • Low sodium diet (2g daily at most)
  • Increased calcium (1000-2000 mg daily)
  • Medications to lower blood pressure

Losing extra weight if overweight and avoiding alcohol support healthy blood pressure, too.

Doctors work to keep systolic pressure under 160 mm Hg and diastolic under 110 mm Hg. Hospitalization may be needed if levels stay 15 mm Hg or more above goal despite treatment. The only “cure” for gestational hypertension is delivering the baby, sometimes earlier than a full 40 weeks.

After birth, most women see blood pressure return to pre-pregnancy norms. However, they remain at higher risk of developing chronic hypertension down the road. Yearly blood pressure checks are wise following any pregnancy complicated by hypertension.

Related Hypertension Management Tips

When to Get Emergency Care

Most cases of gestational hypertension cause no symptoms and are managed through regular prenatal care. However, some signs and symptoms of chronic hypertension in pregnancy demand urgent medical help to prevent severe outcomes like seizure, stroke, or placental abruption.

Get emergency care if you have:

  • Sudden severe headache
  • Changes in vision – spots, flashing lights
  • Nausea or vomiting later in pregnancy
  • Upper abdominal swelling or pain
  • Hard to breathe
  • Feel confused, dizzy
  • Decreased urine production

Having any signs of dangerously high blood pressure in pregnancy means contacting a doctor promptly, at the very least. 

Calling emergency services is appropriate if you notice visual disturbances, trouble breathing normally, sudden severe pain, or inability to keep down liquids. Take your time when symptoms seem genuinely alarming.

Worried About Sudden Swelling or Breathing Issues During Pregnancy?

Contact us today and get the compassionate care and support you need from our maternal health team.

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Paying Attention Makes a Healthy Difference

Expectant moms face many health considerations. But getting tuned in to personal baseline “normal” makes deviations easier to spot. 

Knowing the subtle and severe signs and symptoms of hypertension in pregnancy empowers you to seek timely care. It protects both mom and developing baby when pressures creep too high during pregnancy.

Working as a team with prenatal care providers ensures the best prevention and management of gestational hypertension. Blood pressure monitoring, symptom tracking, medication compliance, and healthy lifestyle measures support the best outcomes.

Pay attention and speak up when anything seems “off” or worrying. Taking hypertension ensures your peace of mind and paves the way to welcoming a new baby safely.


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Our Team

Dr Farhan Malik
Dr. Farhan Malik Primary Care Physician
Dr Shoaib Malik
Dr. Shoaib Malik Primary Care Physician

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