Pregnancy Induced Hypertension: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH) is high blood pressure that develops in pregnant woman after the 20th week of pregnancy. At least 8 to 10 percent of pregnant women develop hypertension during their pregnancy. PIH increases the risk of complications to mother as well as the fetus.

Hypertension in pregnancy is defined as increment in systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure by more than 30 and 15 mm of Hg respectively. In medical terminology the condition is also referred to as toxemia of pregnancy or preeclampsia.

Pregnancy induced hypertension mostly occurs in primigravida (women who are pregnant for the first time).

Usually the blood pressure returns to normal after pregnancy. Patient suffering from PIH has symptoms of high blood pressure, swelling in lower limb, and protein in urine.

How Does Pregnancy Cause Hypertension?

The exact cause why a pregnant woman develops pregnancy induced hypertension is not known. However, there are several risk factors that are found to trigger rise in blood pressure after 20th week of pregnancy. They are;

  • PIH is more common in teenage pregnancy and women over the age of 35 years.
  • Women who are pregnant for the first time. But it may also occur in subsequent pregnancies.
  • Women who have blood pressure 140/90 mm of Hg prior to pregnancy.
  • If there is previous history of pregnancy induced hypertension.
  • Twin pregnancy.
  • Women suffering from diabetes before pregnancy.
  • Obese or underweight women.
  • Women suffering from kidney disease.
  • Abuse of alcohol, tobacco.
  • Family history of pregnancy induced hypertension.

Pregnancy Induced Hypertension Symptoms

High blood pressure occurs when the arteries become narrow. As a result there is resistance in the flow of blood. Blood supply to various organs such as the placenta, liver, kidney, brain, and uterus is reduced. Because of pregnancy induced hypertension the blood supply to the placenta is compromised. The fetus is deprived of nutrition due to which its intrauterine growth is retarded with increased risk of premature birth.

Due to high blood pressure in pregnancy there is risk of placental detachment from the uterus. Severe untreated form of PIH can lead to seizure in pregnant woman. Following are some of the characteristic sign and symptoms of PIH in pregnancy.

  • High blood pressure.
  • Moderate to severe headache.
  • Swelling in limbs.
  • Passage of protein in urine.
  • Pain in upper abdomen.
  • Blurred vision and spots in front of eyes.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Low urine output.
  • Blood in urine.
  • Drowsiness and lethargy.
  • Abnormality in liver and kidney function.
  • Due to swelling and fluid retention there is rapid weight gain.

Treatment Of Pregnancy Induced Hypertension

Pregnancy induced hypertension should be monitored closely. If it is mild to moderate, it can be treated at home. Patient requires taking rest in bed. She should avoid doing household chores and rest in bed. As recommended by the doctor, she has to take fluids and diet.

Patient may have to reduce salt intake. She has to consult her physician regularly and inform any changes that occur immediately to her health care provider. Patient should take medications as prescribed by the physician.

Severe cases of pregnancy induced hypertension require immediate hospitalization. The goal is to prevent complication and the symptoms becoming worse. In hospital patient is given anti hypertensive medications for rapid reduction of blood pressure. Magnesium is given intravenously to prevent convulsion. During this period the patient is monitored closely at frequent intervals. Severe cases may require preterm delivery of the baby.

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