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High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy: Keep Your Numbers in Check

High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy: Keep Your Numbers in Check

High blood pressure during pregnancy is very common. And for most people, it doesn't cause any harm. In some cases, however, it can lead to complications. Here's what you need to know about the different types of high blood pressure you might experience during your pregnancy. 

Gestational hypertension 

This type of high blood pressure starts after the first 20 weeks (about 4 and a half months) of your pregnancy and usually goes away within 12 weeks (about 3 months) of delivery. Though it typically isn't serious, sometimes it can cause more severe issues to develop. 

Chronic hypertension 

High blood pressure that begins during the first half of pregnancy is called chronic hypertension. Some people with chronic hypertension may have had it before becoming pregnant but didn't find out until they got their blood pressure checked during a prenatal appointment. 


A sudden spike in blood pressure after the first 20 weeks (about 4 and a half months) of pregnancy is called pre-eclampsia. Usually, this occurs during the third trimester. This can be very serious, and sometimes life-threatening, for you and your baby. Without treatment, it can lead to eclampsia, which causes seizures. It can also lead to HELLP syndrome, a condition that causes serious blood and liver problems. 

Are you at risk? 

You have a higher risk for developing pre-eclampsia if you: 

  • Had high blood pressure before becoming pregnant or during a previous pregnancy. 

  • Have chronic kidney disease, diabetes or certain other health conditions. 

  • Have a family history of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia. 

  • Used in vitro fertilization, egg donation or donor insemination. 

  • Are having multiples, like twins or triplets. 

  • Are African American. 

  • Are at least 40 years old. 

Know the symptoms 

A few possible symptoms for pre-eclampsia include a headache that won't go away; vision problems; and swelling in your hands, feet and face. Though the cause is still unknown, the good news is with proper care, high blood pressure is usually very treatable. So, if you're planning to get pregnant, talk to your doctor now. Make sure to learn more about the signs of high blood pressure and what you can do before and during your pregnancy to help keep you and your baby healthy. 

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; March of Dimes; MedlinePlus