World Hypertension Day 2019: Is high blood pressure a threat to your pregnancy?

World Hypertension Day 2019: High blood pressure during pregnancy increases the exposure to a lot of threats to the mother and baby. It can disturb the lining of the uterus, which can impede the embryos for healthy implantation.

By Dr Rita Bakshi

While the road to pregnancy can be smooth for some, others may happen to meet many hurdles. Shifts to modern-day tendencies and fancy lifestyles of the younger generation have led to unhealthy habits and unwanted health hazards.

A reliance on damaging things like tobacco, alcohol and junk food has been growing day by day. These unhealthy lifestyle choices are resulting in increased hypertension or high blood pressure. Also, lack of physical activity, tension, obesity, family history and carrying more than one child aggravates the problem.

Hypertension is a condition in which the force against the blood vessels is very high. It can lead to several complications during pregnancy and intensifies the hazard of a stroke. The increased blood pressure in a woman doesn’t directly impact her ovulation, production of eggs or well-being of embryos. But, high blood pressure can disturb the lining of the uterus, which can impede the embryos for healthy implantation.

High blood pressure leads to a condition called preeclampsia during pregnancy, which can have an adverse effect on the kidneys and brain of the mother. The prospective mother will have a high level of protein in her urine and can have swelling in the feet, legs and hands. This condition usually appears late in pregnancy and can also be fatal.

High blood pressure during pregnancy increases the exposure to a lot of threats to the mother and baby, which are as follows:

Intrauterine Growth Restrictions (IGR)

Hypertension often results in slower or decreased growth of your baby as the placenta is unable to perform optimally. The placenta is an organ attached to the lining of the womb and is responsible for supplying nutrition and oxygen to the baby.

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Reduced blood flow reaching placenta

If the placenta fails to get adequate blood supply then the baby shall receive less oxygen and nutrients. This shall restrict the growth of the baby leading to lower birth weight and even premature births. Premature babies generally have breathing problems, increased risk of infection and several other complications.

Premature births

In many cases, when the mother is diagnosed with preeclampsia, the doctors are not left with any option except delivery. Premature babies are also exposed to various threats as they are not fully developed and lack nourishment.

Exposure to cardiovascular diseases

Hypertension and preeclampsia increase the menace of heart and cardiovascular diseases. Babies of preeclampsic mothers are at a higher risk of having cardiovascular problems.

Impact on other organs

If hypertension is not controlled at the right time, it can severely impact the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and other vital organs of the human body. In some cases, it can also be life-threatening.

Placental problems

Preeclampsia increases the risk of a condition where the placenta gets separated from the inner wall of the uterus before the delivery of the baby. Severe abruption can cause heavy bleeding, which could be dangerous for the baby and the mother. A blood pressure level that is greater than 140/90 mm Hg could be a cause for concern. Normal blood pressure is usually somewhere close to 120/80 mm Hg.

It is important that one takes care of themselves and invests in healthy habits. The human body is a cohesive mechanism since each organ works as an integrated whole. Thus, one should always take care of their health, especially during pregnancy.

(The writer is Senior Gynaecologist and IVF Expert, International Fertility Centre.)

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