What to Expect with High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

**I am not a doctor. This post is about a personal experience. If you have questions or concerns about your health, consult your doctor**

*This post may contain affiliate links where if you use the link to make a purchase I will get a small commission at no cost to you*

At any point during pregnancy you can get high blood pressure

High blood pressure during pregnancy is extremely scary and unsafe for mom and baby.

This is why it is extremely important to go to each doctor visit during pregnancy.

You didn’t have high blood pressure prior to pregnancy, and now, the doctor says you have high blood pressure.

What can you expect moving forward? And, what does it mean to have high blood pressure in pregnancy?

Monitor your blood pressure at home

Late into the second trimester of my pregnancy, I started to have borderline high blood pressure readings.

I would go into the office and my blood pressure would be 140/90.  Once this started happening, my doctor required me to start taking and recording my blood pressure at home.

My doctor was being cautious, but high blood pressure in pregnancy can be and is dangerous for mom and baby.

My blood pressure was normal at home and at other doctor’s offices, so we were just monitoring my blood pressure at this point.

I borrowed a blood pressure monitor from my parents, but this is the blood pressure monitor I was looking to buy.  I also went to pharmacies and took my blood pressure there just to see what it was in a different atmosphere.

However, the next visit it would be in the normal range.  My OB thinks I will eventually have high blood pressure no matter what I do.  This didn’t help the anxiety of going to the OB.

How can you lower your blood pressure during pregnancy?

Maintain a healthy diet

So, baby is craving ice cream or cake…those things are ok but be sure they are in moderation.  They don’t need to be eaten every day.

You want to get your daily fruits, vegetables, and meats in before you are devouring the ice cream.

As best you can, keep up a well balanced diet.  The first trimester or any other lasting nausea might make this hard, but do the best you can to eat properly.

Be sure to continue taking your prenatal vitamins or at the very least take folate.

Continue your exercise routine

Check with your doctor before you continue or start a new workout routine. There is a possibility of bed rest so do check with your doctor ALWAYS.

Staying active will help keep the blood flowing properly in your body.

Exercising during pregnancy helps EVERYTHING.

It can also help reduce stress which is what I thought was causing my high blood pressure.

Take up meditation or yoga to also find new ways to release stress.  Stress is a silent killer find ways to keep it at bay.

I was taking daily walks with my dogs and hiking, etc, so it isn’t a fix all, but it is more healthy to continue to do some form of exercise than it is to sit around.

GO TO ALL OF YOUR PRENATAL APPOINTMENTS

I am going to put some huge emphasis on this one if you couldn’t tell.

My blood pressure spiked into preeclampsia at a routine prenatal visit.

I was at my 32-week appointment when my blood pressure read at 150/90, and it didn’t stop climbing.

I thought it was just stress or anxiety.  A high reading wasn’t uncommon before my Hashimoto’s diagnosis, so I thought it would just go back down.

After the nurse to the second reading 10 minutes later, I was sent to the hospital, immediately.

There was a strong possibility of delivering the baby that night.

Luckily, my regular OB was on-call, and he would meet us at the hospital to discuss next steps.

If you have been prescribed blood pressure (BP) medications before or during pregnancy, TAKE THEM AS PRESCRIBED

It is for your own well-being and your unborn child’s that you take your prescribed medication.

Believe me, I didn’t want to do it either, but it was so important to keep G cooking just a little bit longer.

It also may take some trial and error before they get the right dose.  I think my dose changed two or three times in two weeks before ultimately delivering.

Don’t drink, smoke, or do illegal drugs

This one truly needs no explanation.

Just don’t do it.

Monitor your weight gain

This one is tricky for us women.  At every appointment we see the scale go up, and it is a good thing, but our brains are not wired in a way to accept this (most of us).

Weight gain is expected, natural, and should happen steadily.

This goes back to the exercise and eating a balanced diet sections.  Both are important to help maintain a healthy weight gain.

This does NOT mean obsessively weigh yourself every hour.  It just means be mindful of your weight gain and discuss it with your doctor when you feel it necessary.

Preeclampsia during pregnancy

It is very likely your moderate high blood pressure will turn to preeclampsia.

At the same time, medication can keep your blood pressure stable, so it is extremely important to take your medication as prescribed.

What is preeclampsia?

According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, preeclampsia only occurs in pregnancy after about 20 weeks gestation and is characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine.  Preeclampsia can develop into eclampsia where your blood pressure gets so high you could experience seizures. 

Typically, the only way to cure preeclampsia is to deliver the baby.

There can be no symptoms of preeclampsia which is why prenatal care is so important. 

This was me. My only true symptom was high blood pressure.  Scary stuff!! Make sure to stay up-to-date with your OB visits.

Other symptoms might include: severely high blood pressure readings, protein in your urine, swelling, headaches, sudden weight gain, changes in vision, among others.

Some of these symptoms can be explained away due to other circumstances which is why you should go to all of your prenatal visits and discuss with your doctor if you think you might have preeclampsia or high blood pressure. 

Once I got to triage, the nurse took my blood pressure again, and it went from 160/90 to 180/100 in the matter of 10 minutes.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, you NEED to call your doctor and head to the triage area of your labor and delivery wing.

What blood work can indicate with preeclampsia

If you are admitted to the hospital for high blood pressure during pregnancy, you will have lots of blood drawn and hooked up to several monitors.

They draw blood to check your complete blood count (CBC), check creatinine levels, liver enzymes, platelet counts, and uric acid levels.

They will do a urine sample as well to check for protein in the urine.  This will help the doctor determine the health of your kidneys.  Because, according to preeclampsia.org, healthy kidneys do not allow a significant amount of protein to pass to the urine.

Lucky for me, my urine sample and blood work all came back normal.  At this point, my high blood pressure was not affecting my other organs.

You will be connected to a fetal heart monitor

The fetal heart monitor is to do just that monitor the heart rate of your baby.

There is a machine the cords are connected to that prints out a paper showing the patterns of your baby’s heart rate.

They want to see a low heart rate while the baby is at rest, and a high heart rate to indicate movement.

This is how they will know if the high blood pressure is affecting the baby.

My high blood pressure did not seem to affect my baby which was great news for me.

With high blood pressure during pregnancy there is a possibility of delivering early

I was 32 weeks along when I was sent to triage for high blood pressure at a routine appointment.

Because they thought I was likely having the baby that night or within the next few days, I was given 2 steroid shots to help the development of G’s lungs.

The two shots are not given at the same time, but they are given several hours apart.

If you have to go to the hospital, you will be started on a magnesium sulfate drip was added to reduce my risk of seizures due to the high blood pressure.

Prepare yourself or hopefully your nurse has a lot of experience because the first time I am given magnesium the dose is so high I immediately throw up.

The nurse expects this, and she is slightly upset with me for throwing up in the trash can and not the bed pan she gave me. (oh well!)

Magnesium Sulfate and Preeclampsia

Magnesium sulfate is commonly given to reduce the risk of seizures because of the high blood pressure.

It is a quite powerful medication.  You cannot walk when on it.

While in the hospital, my options were a catheter or pee in a bed pan. I chose the bed pan.  I wasn’t at a point where they were going to force a catheter, so I opted for the bed pan.

Magnesium Sulfate is why when I finally got a room in labor and delivery that I was wheeled in my bed to said room.  I was also given a bright yellow “Fall Risk” bracelet to wear.  You cannot get out of bed for any reason once given Magnesium Sulfate.

I was given this again after I eventually delivered my baby.

All my nurses out there, you guys are AMAZING!!!

You may visit a Maternal Fetal Medicine Specialist

My doctor comes in for rounds.  He doesn’t want to make an official decision about me going home or not until Maternal Fetal Medicine comes in to assess the baby.

Maternal Fetal Medicine comes in to do an ultrasound of the baby.

They so wonderfully inform us that the baby is breech.  (Yay for this said no one ever.)

They do tell us that we would be fine to play “the wait and see” game.  However, the ultimate decision is still up to my doctor.

They don’t see any thing significant on the ultrasound that tells them otherwise.

Maternal Fetal Medicine assessed the baby’s stomach and torso size, her head size, etc. to make their final decision.

We were one of the lucky ones.

Modified bed rest for high blood pressure during pregnancy

I want to add I was 1 of 3 women who came in that night with severe high blood pressure.

Spoiler alert: I was the only one not having their baby the next day.

This just shows how serious this needs to be taken.

Even my nurse told me her blood pressure was in the 200’s/100 something when she was pregnant.  That is crazy scary.  Blood pressure this high can kill you and your baby.

My doctor and his practice decide I can go home if I take the blood pressure medication given, and I would have to be on modified bed rest.

With modified bed rest, I could still walk my dogs, but I would have to significantly shorten my walks.  I would have to do more smaller walks instead of one big walk.

Walking around the house and doing things on the weekends was still allowed(to an extent), but everything was in moderation.

I truly was too afraid to do a lot of anything.

The goal was to attempt to get to 37 weeks.

On top of BP medication and modified bed rest, I have to go into the office twice a week to check the baby’s heartbeat on the fetal heart monitor and check my blood pressure.

I went into the hospital on a Tuesday evening with the thought I was having a baby only to finally go home on Saturday giving my sweet baby more time to cook.

At this point in time, despite my plans, I have never been more grateful for modern medicine.

High blood pressure during pregnancy is VERY scary

When I started having high blood pressure readings, I chalked it up to stress and anxiety.

Normally, I didn’t have high blood pressure, and I dismissed my doctor to an extent because he insisted, I have high blood pressure.

It wasn’t until it wouldn’t come down that I realized how serious everything was.

Things can change very quickly when you are dealing with high blood pressure or preeclampsia during pregnancy.

What happens to the baby if you have preeclampsia

If your blood pressure does not respond to medication, for the safety of you and your baby, you will have to delivery your baby.

If your doctor is like mine was initially and thinks it’s best to deliver the baby, you will have your baby early.

Preeclampsia hinders the blood flow to the placenta, thus resulting in smaller, premature babies.  This is ultimate what would cause us to deliver at 34 weeks.

Remember, the only way to cure preeclampsia is to deliver the baby.  However, you can still have preeclampsia and its symptoms after delivering your baby.  It is important to continue to monitor your blood pressure and take your medication as prescribed.

*Bonus* If you are able to and you know you will be delivering early, ask to tour the NICU.

I cried the entire tour, but I knew where my baby would be, and how she would be taken care of in every scenario.

Touring the NICU was helpful, but there is nothing that can prepare you for a NICU stay.

**If you would like even more information on Pre-eclampsia check out my feature on Bottomless MOMosa.


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