Know Your Numbers: Managing and Monitoring Your Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

Oct 3, 2023 | Pregnancy, Maternity, Nutrition

High blood pressure during pregnancy affects around 8 to 10 per cent of pregnant women [1]. It can carry risks to you and your baby, but the good news is there’s lots you and your doctor can do to treat it.

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force your heart uses to pump blood around your body. High blood pressure, which is also known as hypertension, is when your heart is working harder to get your blood pumping.

Hypertension can place stress on your blood vessels, heart and organs such as kidneys and eyes, and it can lead to complications in pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia. For your baby, it can result in less blood flowing to the placenta. This could mean your baby won’t receive the oxygen and nutrients it needs and lead to slow or decreased growth.

How do I know if I have high blood pressure?

Your midwife will regularly check your blood pressure at your antenatal appointments, so it’s important that you attend them.

Some women will have high blood pressure before becoming pregnant while some will develop it during pregnancy. While this might sound worrying, you should receive careful monitoring by your maternity care team to make sure you get the right treatment and advice at the right time.

What if I have high blood pressure before getting pregnant?

If you want to try for a baby and are already on medication for hypertension, you should talk to your doctor as they may want to change your medicine.

If you’ve found out you’re pregnant and you have high blood pressure, you should talk to your GP as soon as possible as your medicine may not be the best one to take when you’re pregnant. 

What if I develop high blood pressure during pregnancy?

Hypertension doesn’t always have symptoms so you might not know you have it. But if it does develop in pregnancy it should be picked up during your regular antenatal appointments.

If you’re found to have high blood pressure there’s no need to panic. Speak to your midwife or your GP about a plan to manage it, including what medication you might need to take.

What can I do to reduce my blood pressure?

Try to keep active and do exercise every day, such as walking or swimming. Exercise is also good for your mental health and can help to reduce stress and anxiety, which can contribute to high blood pressure.

Eating a healthy diet is really important if you’re pregnant and can also help to reduce blood pressure. Try to keep your salt intake low, and avoid smoking and drinking alcohol. We’ve got more advice on our blog about maintaining a healthy diet in pregnancy

What is pre-eclampsia?

Hypertension, together with protein in your urine, could be a sign of pre-eclampsia. You’re unlikely to be aware of those symptoms but they should be picked up during your routine antenatal appointments, which is another reason it’s important to attend your regular check-ups.

Pre-eclampsia usually occurs after 20 weeks and affects up to 1 in 25 pregnancies. Most people experience mild symptoms but it’s important to manage because if it’s left untreated, it can be dangerous for you and your baby.

Giving birth with high blood pressure

Your blood pressure will be monitored regularly during labour and, as long as it continues to stay on track, you should be able to have a natural birth.

However, if it doesn’t remain on target, your medical team might advise that your baby be delivered by caesarian section.

Can I breastfeed with high blood pressure?

Even if you’re on medication, you should be able to breastfeed your new baby but you’ll need to speak to your doctor to make sure you’re taking the right medicine for you.

After pregnancy

After the birth of your baby, your blood pressure should be checked regularly by your GP or your midwife.

You may need to take blood pressure medication for the first few months after the birth, so speak to them about a plan to manage it and for regular reviews.

And don’t forget to eat a balanced diet and to take regular exercise, which will all help towards keeping you healthy.

Are you pregnant? Join The Parents Class

If you’re pregnant and want to connect with other expectant parents, then join The Parents Class.

We’ve listed a number of ways that you can manage and monitor your blood pressure when you’re pregnant, but for more insight and evidence-based advice you can trust, while connecting with other parents-to-be, join Our Community for free today.

Of course, if you are pregnant then this is your sign to book your place with The Parents Class. Our evidence-led antenatal classes, each led by registered midwives, are designed for expectant parents who are 18 weeks pregnant and over. Find your nearest class today. 

[1] NHS Recommendations for digital blood pressure monitoring in maternity services

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