Hypertension: New Warning for Women

Pregnancy-induced hypertension is a common condition.

Six to eight percent of all pregnant women will develop hypertension. Typically, it goes away once the baby is born, but now studies are showing that it’s actually a risk factor for developing high blood pressure later in life.

“Over the next five to 15 years after that she is double the risk of developing hypertension,” says cardiologist Dr. Susan Bennett. “So it’s a unique opportunity to identify a woman prior to the actual development of the disease to try and do some early interventions.”

Dr. Bennett says this new risk factor is a significant finding, especially since things like high blood pressure and heart disease are still under-diagnosed among women. It gives doctors a new way to figure out which women should make life style changes early on to avoid developing hypertension later in life.

Things like eating a low-sodium diet and adding more exercise into their daily routine can start now.

What is it?
  Pregnancy induced hypertension (hi-per-ten-shun) is a high blood pressure problem caused by pregnancy. It is also called “PIH.” Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure. You may have PIH if your blood pressure was normal but began to rise after the 20th week of pregnancy. PIH means more than just having high blood pressure. Many of the organs in your body may be involved with PIH. About 5 to 7 per cent of all women get PIH during pregnancy.

  You may be at a higher risk to get PIH if this is your first pregnancy or if you are pregnant with 2 or more babies. Being less than 20 years old or older than 35 years may put you at higher risk for having PIH. Or you may be more likely to have PIH if you have a mother or sister who has had PIH. PIH can be a very serious problem to you and your baby if it is not treated. PIH usually goes away after delivery.

  There are 2 levels of PIH.

High blood pressure and protein in the urine and/or swelling of your face, hands, or feet. This may also be called pre-eclampsia (e-klam-c-uh). You may have mild or very severe pre-eclampsia.

High blood pressure, protein in the urine, swelling, and convulsions (seizures). This may also be called eclampsia.

What is blood pressure? Blood pressure (“BP”) is the force or pressure that carries blood to all parts of the body. A blood pressure reading measures the pressure that blood puts on the walls of arteries.


Although many pregnant women with high blood pressure have healthy babies without serious problems, high blood pressure can be dangerous for both the mother and the fetus. Women with pre-existing, or chronic, high blood pressure are more likely to have certain complications during pregnancy than those with normal blood pressure. However, some women develop high blood pressure while they are pregnant (often called gestational hypertension).

The effects of high blood pressure range from mild to severe. High blood pressure can harm the mother’s kidneys and other organs, and it can cause low birth weight and early delivery. In the most serious cases, the mother develops preeclampsia-or “toxemia of pregnancy”-which can threaten the lives of both the mother and the fetus.

What is preeclampsia?

Preeclampsia is a condition that typically starts after the 20th week of pregnancy and is related to increased blood pressure and protein in the mother’s urine (as a result of kidney problems). Preeclampsia affects the placenta, and it can affect the mother’s kidney, liver, and brain. When preeclampsia causes seizures, the condition is known as eclampsia-the second leading cause of maternal death in the U.S. Preeclampsia is also a leading cause of fetal complications, which include low birth weight, premature birth, and stillbirth.

There is no proven way to prevent preeclampsia. Most women who develop signs of preeclampsia, however, are closely monitored to lessen or avoid related problems. The way to “cure” preeclampsia is to deliver the baby.

By: NBC News

Provided by ArmMed Media