You’ve probably read about the dangers of high blood pressure during pregnancy.
But what about low blood pressure?
During early pregnancy, many women notice their blood pressure drop and aren’t sure what to do. Although it isn’t as risky as a high reading, it may still be a cause for concern in some situations. And, even if it’s not, the symptoms can be annoying.
In this post, we’re sharing the signs of low blood pressure during pregnancy and home remedies to keep them at bay.
What is Low Blood Pressure During Pregnancy?
Blood pressure is the pressure of your blood against vessel walls as your heart pumps. Although there’s a healthy range, it’s normal for your blood pressure to fluctuate throughout the day. For example, it may temporarily increase if you get excited.
Your doctor will probably check your blood pressure during every prenatal visit. If you have fewer in-person appointments or you have a high-risk pregnancy, your healthcare provider may also suggest getting a blood pressure cuff so you can check it at home.
Blood pressure is an indicator of health. If it’s too high, it could hint at conditions like preeclampsia. There are fewer complications associated with low blood pressure. However, too low may also be problematic for you and your baby.
Whether you check your own blood pressure or have your doctor do it, you may notice it’s lower than usual in the first trimester. This is normal within the first 24 weeks. For reference:
- Normal blood pressure:Below 120 mmHg systolic (top number) over 80 mmHg diastolic (bottom number).
- Low blood pressure: Below 90 mmHg systolic (top number) over 60 mmHg diastolic (bottom number).
10 Signs of Low Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
The best way to tell your blood pressure is to check it using a cuff. If you don’t want to wait until your next prenatal appointment, you can buy one in your local pharmacy or online.
You may not know you have low blood pressure until you experience physical changes. Signs of low blood pressure during pregnancy include:
- Light-headedness— Any time, but most noticeably when sitting or standing up
- Blurred vision
- Dehydration or unusual thirst
- Problems concentrating
- Cold, clammy, pale skin
- Shallow, rapid breathing
If you experience any low blood pressure signs, contact your doctor.
What Causes Low Blood Pressure During Pregnancy?
During the first 12 weeks, you may notice your blood pressure drop and hover around that low level for the first and second trimester.
One reason could be because your blood vessels get bigger to transfer blood to the uterus, affecting your circulatory system. Other non-pregnancy related factors can also decrease blood pressure.
- Staying in hot bath too long— Pregnant women should avoid staying in water that’s hot enough to raise their body temperature higher than 102.2°F for more than 10 minutes.
- Medication— Some drugs can decrease blood pressure, so be sure to tell your doctor which medications you’re taking.
- Anemia— Anemia is another possible cause of low blood pressure and may be more common during pregnancy since your body needs enough ironto make more red blood cells.
- Prolonged bed rest— If you’re having a rough pregnancy that requires you to spend a lot of time in bed, it’s possible that’s contributing to low blood pressure
- Allergic reactions
- Internal bleeding
- Endocrine disorders
- Heart conditions
If your blood pressure is very low, it could hint toward more serious complications. For example, it can be a sign of ectopic pregnancy (when the egg attaches outside the uterus).
Low Blood Pressure During Pregnancy: When to Call Doctor
You may know that high blood pressure can be a sign of serious pregnancy complications. However, doctors are typically less concerned about low blood pressure.
While there’s many studies on the bad effects of high blood pressure, there’s less research on how low readings can affect the fetus. Some data suggest that low blood pressure is associated with small babies and high perinatal mortality (late fetal death and early baby death). Another study found that continuous low blood pressure raises the risk of negative pregnancy outcomes, like stillbirth.
However, it’s important to realize that there’s many unanswered questions surrounding the effects of low blood pressure, so more research needs to be done. It’s possible that low blood pressure itself doesn’t impact your health, but other factors do. For example, women with low blood pressure often feel lightheaded when they go from sitting to standing. If this leads them to faint, they could have a rough fall that impacts the baby.
To put it simply, low blood pressure during pregnancy isn’t usually a problem, but since the effects may be unknown, it’s an important number to keep your eye on.
Whether you got a low reading from a cuff or are experiencing low blood pressure symptoms, you should tell your doctor in case they have specific recommendations. However, in many cases, low blood pressure can be expected in the first trimester and doesn’t require treatment. As your pregnancy progresses, it will likely rise to a normal level by the third trimester.
In more rare situations, blood pressure doesn’t rise back up or is unusually low to begin with. To see if there’s any underlying causes, your doctor may recommend a few tests.
Treatment for Low Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
Low blood pressure during pregnancy doesn’t usually need to be treated. There are some exceptions though:
- Medication— If your blood pressure is unusually low, your doctor may prescribe medication.
- Prescription Change— If your doctor believes your low blood pressure is caused by a medication, they may give you an alternative prescription until it returns to normal.
- Test for Underlying Conditions— Blood pressure that’s very low can be a sign of another more serious condition. If this could be the case, your doctor will run a few tests to pinpoint the cause. Treatments will depend on the condition. For example, if anemia is causing low blood pressure, they may prescribe an iron supplement. Other treatments may be more extreme. For example, if the cause is an ectopic pregnancy, the baby cannot survive and the tissue needs to be removed by medication or surgery.
Home Remedies Low Blood Pressure Pregnancy
Although low blood pressure doesn’t usually need medical intervention, the symptoms may be bothersome. In that case, there’s some home remedies you can try until your level is back to normal.
Take It Slow
Sitting or standing quickly can cause you to feel lightheaded or faint. Make it a habit to sit down and stand up very slowly.
Wear Loose Clothing
Loose clothing may help prevent you from feeling dizzy.
Try Compression Socks
Compression socks help increase circulation, which may help increase blood pressure.
Low blood pressure can make you feel dizzy and nauseous, possibly leading to vomiting. On top of that, you may already be throwing up because of morning sickness. It’s important to replace the fluids you lost, so try to stay hydrated. Warm herbal teas may also help ease nausea.
Eat Small, Frequent Meals
Instead of eating 3 large meals, try to eat several smaller ones. That’s because large meals can cause bigger drops in blood pressure as your body works to digest them.
Eat More Salt, If Recommended
Many doctors would rather you limit your salt intake since it can cause high blood pressure and complications that come alongside it. However, in some cases, a doctor may recommend adding a bit more salt to raise your blood pressure. With that being said, you should always check with your healthcare provider before raising your salt intake.
Low BP During Pregnancy: Gender Predictions
You may have heard that your blood pressure hints at which gender you’re having, but is it true?
One study showed that a child’s gender may be linked to the mother’s blood pressure six months before she becomes pregnant. A higher blood pressure pre-pregnancy could mean better chances of having a boy. And a low reading could mean you’re more likely to have a girl. It’s important to note they took volunteers’ blood pressure before becoming pregnant, so readings during pregnancy may not have the same association.
However, even the lead author was quick to point out that they discovered an association, not a cause-and-effect. That is to say, more research needs to be done to uncover any links that may exist.
Summary: Low Blood Pressure During Pregnancy
Having low blood pressure during pregnancy isn’t usually a cause for concern because it normally rises back in the third trimester. In this case, you may want to try the home remedies listed above to manage symptoms.
Sometimes, blood pressure is abnormally low or remains low. In these situations, a doctor may prescribe medication or suggest tests to find the underlying cause.
P.S. Nervous About Your Baby? Hear Her Heartbeat from Home with a Fetal Doppler!