Is it okay to become pregnant if I have hypertension?

If you’re hoping to become pregnant but worried that you or your unborn child may be at risk, here’s some reassuring news.

Hypertension increases the risk of a condition known as preeclampsia, which is usually characterised by elevated blood pressure and retention of water and salt, resulting in weight gain, swelling of the face, ankles and hands.

Preeclampsia is rare, occurring in about three percent of pregnancies, but recognising and treating it is vital to preventing the second stage of the condition, called eclampsia, is potentially fatal to mother and child. Its symptoms include severe headaches, seizures, abdominal pain and unconsciousness.

It sounds terrifying: the good news is that having hypertension shouldn’t prevent you from getting pregnant. Your doctor will want you to reduce your salt intake, which will help lower your blood pressure. This will mean no more than a teaspoon of salt each day.

If you’re overweight you’ll have to lose weight through controlled eating aerobic exercise. The aim of all this will be to reduce your blood pressure to 130/85.

You’ll be wanting to quit smoking before getting pregnant anyway, but giving up will help reduce you blood pressure too.

During your pregnancy, your doctor and gynaecologist will keep a close eye on your blood pressure and will probably prescribe beta blockers or vasodilators, but not ACE inhibitors and angiotensin II receptorsm, which retard the growth of the foetus and can lead to birth defects or even death.

Preeclampsia is more common in women with hypertension, obesity, kidney disease or diabetes, teenage mothers, mothers older than 40, and women of African descent.

(Liesel Powell, Health24)

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