WHAT AFFECTS BLOOD PRESSURE?
Blood pressure can be influenced by race, age, weight, genetics and lifestyle. Blood pressure higher than normal (140/90) is called hypertension, and lower than normal (90/60) is called hypotension. Severe hypertension is 160/110 and occasional stress hypertension is around 135/90.
Stress, narrow blood vessels and chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart and kidney disease can cause high blood pressure. Women with an existing hypertension may have difficulty conceiving, and will be carefully monitored during their pregnancy. Women with a mild hyperor hypotension may only be diagnosed when pregnant for the first time.
Overweight women risk hypertension during pregnancy. Other conditions that contribute to hypertension during pregnancy is teenage pregnancy and women older than 35 who are pregnant for the first time.
Pregnant women have a staggering 60 percent increased blood volume. This should raise your blood pressure to dangerously high levels, but the pregnancy hormones progesterone and relaxin open up the blood vessels (like increasing the diameter of water pipes). In this way hormones help to improve the blood flow and stabilise the blood pressure.
Blood pressure will drop when there is less blood flowing through the veins. Temporary low blood pressure may simply be caused by dehydration, but sudden, severe hypotension that deteriorates is urgent and must be seen by a doctor because it could be a hidden or visible bleeding. Hidden bleeding accompanied with severe pelvic pain may be a ruptured ectopic pregnancy (when the baby starts to grow in the tubes) or placenta abruptio (when the placenta comes away from the wall of the womb). Visible vaginal bleeding may be caused by any number of reasons, including miscarriage.
High blood pressure in pregnancy is called pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH), a condition that can be dangerous (even life-threatening) for both mother and baby if not treated. PIH can become eclampsia, a serious condition with complications such as convulsions, stroke, heart and kidney failure, coma and even death.
It’s important for all pregnant women to be tested regularly for PIH. Investigations include checking weight and oedema (swelling of the feet, ankles and hands), monitoring BP and testing urine for protein.
When PIH is diagnosed, monitoring and follow-up treatment is essential. Women attending government clinics or