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Pregnancy-Related Hypertension

If you develop high blood pressure when you’re pregnant, you have gestational hypertension. Usually it starts after you've been pregnant for about 20 weeks, and it goes away after your baby is born.

How It May Affect You and Your Baby

Even with gestational hypertension, you have a good chance of having a healthy pregnancy and baby, as most women with this condition do. But high blood pressure can damage your kidneys and other organs. It also increases your chances of high blood pressure or heart disease and of having a stroke after your pregnancy or later in life.

Having high blood pressure reduces blood flow to the placenta, meaning it can’t deliver all the oxygen and nutrients your baby needs. That can slow your baby’s growth, which can cause your baby to be born small. Most babies can catch up on their growth by a few months after birth, but it's healthier if they are born at a normal weight.

How It Can Progress

Be sure to go to all your checkups with your doctor or midwife. That’s when they’ll monitor your blood pressure closely and prevent as many complications as possible.

Gestational hypertension can lead to preeclampsia. That means in addition to having high blood pressure, you also have problems in your kidneys, liver, or other organs. Excessive swelling, such as in your face and ankles, and protein in the urine are two common signs of preeclampsia. Women who have preeclampsia are more likely to need an induction or a C-section, and they have a greater chance of having stillbirth.

It’s key for you and your doctor or midwife to work together to manage preeclampsia. You want to do all you can to keep it from progressing to eclampsia or other complications. With eclampsia, a woman has preeclampsia with seizures before or after delivery. This is a serious, but rare, condition.

How Gestational Hypertension May Affect Delivery

If you develop preeclampsia, you may need to stay in the hospital to be monitored before your baby is born. You’re also more likely to need to be induced for an early delivery or to have a C-section.

How to Tell if Gestational Hypertension Is Worse

If you have any of these symptoms of preeclampsia, call your doctor or midwife.

  • You feel bloated, your ankles are very swollen, or your face or upper body has swelling when you wake up.
  • You have headaches, blurred vision, or sensitivity to light.
  • You have seizures or convulsions.
  • You have a severe pain under your ribs.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Trina Pagano, MD on January 28, 2013

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