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High blood pressure in pregnancy

Your blood pressure will naturally fluctuate in pregnancy but changes aren’t always something to worry about and high blood pressure doesn’t always mean pre-eclampsia


Posted: 24 February 2012
by Kimberley Smith

HIgh blood pressure
If you have high blood pressure you'll be tested more often

Your blood pressure will change throughout your pregnancy as your hormone levels fluctuate and your heart and blood system work to grow and support your developing baby.

One important change is that pregnancy hormone progesterone relaxes the walls of your blood vessels. This can give you low blood pressure in the first and second trimesters and can make you feel faint or dizzy.

You will also have more blood pumping around your body (an extra two litres), and your baby gives your heart extra work to do, so it’s no wonder there are so many changes.

When will you have your blood pressure taken?

You will have your blood pressure tested at all of your antenatal check ups. Blood pressure varies from person to person and even more so in pregnancy, so it’s useless to compare it against anyone else. Generally, your midwife will only be concerned if it seems extremely high but you may need a few readings to confirm it’s not a false alarm.

Is all high blood pressure a sign of pre-eclampsia?

No. High blood pressure is just one of the symptoms of pre-eclampsia and there are other reasons yours could be elevated.

Other conditions linked to high blood pressure are essential hypertension and gestational hypertension. If you get high blood pressure before 20 weeks of pregnancy (essential hypertension) it’s likely you had it before you became pregnant. If it comes on after 20 weeks (gestational hypertension), it’s probably linked to your pregnancy and will go down after your baby is born. In both cases you’ll be given extra blood pressure checks and may need to take medicine to prevent it become too high.

With either of these conditions, you are at an increased risk of pre-eclampsia, so make sure you know what signs to look out for and seek help if you feel unwell between your appointments. Your doctors will be aware of this risk and should keep an extra close eye on you with regular testing.

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