Gestational hypertension (high blood pressure)

Chest | Cardiology | Gestational hypertension (high blood pressure) (Disease)


Gestational hypertension is a form of high blood pressure in pregnancy. It occurs in about 5 to 8 percent of all pregnancies. Another type of high blood pressure is chronic hypertension--high blood pressure that is present before pregnancy begins.

Causes and Risk factors

Gestational hypertension can develop into preeclampsia. This condition occurs most often in young women with a first pregnancy. It is more common in twin pregnancies, in women over the age of 35, in women with chronic hypertension or who had hypertension in a previous pregnancy, in African-American women, and in women with diabetes. With high blood pressure, there is an increase in the resistance of blood vessels.

This may hinder blood flow in many different organ systems in the expectant mother including the liver, kidneys, brain, uterus, and placenta.

There are other problems that may develop as a result of gestational hypertension. Placental abruption (premature detachment of the placenta from the uterus) may occur in some pregnancies. Gestational hypertension can also lead to fetal problems including intrauterine growth restriction (poor fetal growth) and stillbirth.

Diagnosis and Treatment

The following are the most common symptoms of high blood pressure in pregnancy. However, each woman may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

(1) Increased blood pressure

(2) Protein in the urine

(3) Edema (swelling)

(4) Sudden weight gain

(5) Visual changes such as blurred or double vision

There is no specific treatment, but is monitored closely to rapidly identify pre-eclampsia and its life-threatening complications (HELLP syndrome and eclampsia).

Drug treatment options are limited, as many antihypertensives may negatively affect the fetus; methyldopa, hydralazine and labetalol are most commonly used for severe pregnancy hypertension. ...