Why high blood pressure should be managed during pregnancy to avoid long-term heart issues

Birth plans and doctor visits are being disrupted for pregnant women during the pandemic.
Birth plans and doctor visits are being disrupted for pregnant women during the pandemic.
Published: Feb. 26, 2021 at 3:31 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Pregnancy can be an exciting, and also stressful, time. So, keeping an eye on your blood pressure is even more critical.

“If you have high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnancy, it’s a risk factor to have both maternal complications and fetal complications during pregnancy and delivery,” explained Dr. Chantal ElAmm.

Dr.l ElAmm is the director of Maternal Cardiology at University Hospitals Harrington Heart and Vascular Institute.

“We have different entities of high blood pressure during pregnancy. Not every high blood pressure is pre-eclampsia,” she says.

There are several categories of high blood pressure. They include:

  • Chronic high blood pressure or chronic hypertension
  • Gestational hypertension
  • Chronic hypertension with pre-eclampsia
  • Pre-eclampsia, or high blood pressure with spillage of proteins in the urine

There’s eclampsia, which are seizures that can happen during pregnancy or after giving birth.

“Pre-eclampsia during pregnancy is a risk factor for future hypertension lifelong and for cardiovascular diseases lifelong after delivery,” described Dr. ElAmm.

The doctor said many times women don’t have symptoms. So, that’s why she says it’s even more important to keep follow-up appointments with your doctor for blood and urine checks.

But in certain cases she says, “They can have what we call right upper quadrant or epigastric pain, abdominal pain from congestion. They can also have, if you wake up with visual symptoms.”  

Those symptoms include floaters, flashing lights, and even headaches.

“One of the more dramatic symptoms is pulmonary edema. You can retain fluid in your lungs and you become quite short of breath,” said Dr. ElAmm.   

Paying attention to your weight before planning a family, Dr. ElAmm says, is also very important. And, if you know you have high blood pressure and are planning to get pregnant, she says you and your doctor should have a strategy in place to get things under control, and what medications you may need to adjust.

“Certain women who have high blood pressure and also EKG changes like that signify the walls of the heart are thick. We might do an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart, beforehand to make sure that they have a normal heart function, that they don’t have heart failure,” expressed Dr. ElAmm.

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