WHAT AF­FECTS BLOOD PRES­SURE?

Your Pregnancy - - Month By Month -

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.

TOO HIGH

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

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