Having high blood pressure when pregnant is more common than you might think.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high blood happens in one in every 12 to 17 pregnancies.
Unfortunately, the condition can put you and your baby at risk for a variety of problems during and after delivery. Making it worse, many women don’t experience high blood pressure symptoms. So, how can you know if yours is too high?
In this article, we’re covering 7 possible blood pregnancy-specific high blood pressure symptoms, along with the #1 sign you have hypertension. Plus, you’ll learn how you can easily track blood pressure readings at home.
What Is Normal Blood Pressure When Pregnant?
Blood pressure refers to the force of blood that pushes through your arteries. Too much pressure means that you have high blood pressure, also called hypertension. For everyone, high blood pressure is a leading cause of serious problems like heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and more. During pregnancy and delivery, high blood pressure causes an additional set of challenges. Some of these complications can be serious and cause organ damage, premature birth, or death (to learn more, read the section below).
High blood pressure is becoming more common while expecting. In fact, gestational hypertension-preeclampsia is the most common disorder in pregnancy. According to research, it’s also a major cause of maternal and prenatal deaths.
Many people wonder about the healthy ranges for blood pressure when they’re pregnant. A normal blood pressure reading for pregnant and non-pregnant adults is less than 120/80.
Some people experience high blood pressure for the first time while expecting. It starts after 20 weeks and goes away after you have your baby. This is called gestational hypertension.
On the other hand, chronic hypertension is high blood pressure before pregnancy or before 20 weeks of pregnancy. About a quarter of women with chronic hypertension have preeclampsia, according to the March of Dimes. If you have chronic hypertension, your doctor will put more emphasis on monitoring your blood pressure before, throughout, and after pregnancy.
Complications of High Blood Pressure When Pregnant
High blood pressure can cause problems at any time during a person’s life. It can put extra stress on your heart and kidneys, possibly leading to heart and kidney disease.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), high blood pressure when pregnant can also increase your risk for:
- Preterm birth
- Placental abruption
- Cesarean birth
Those with high blood pressure may have preeclampsia, marked by high blood pressure and organ damage. This typically happens after the 20th week, usually in the third trimester. Preeclampsia can lead to serious problems like:
7 Pregnant High Blood Pressure Symptoms
Wondering about pregnant high blood pressure symptoms? The only way to know for sure is to take a blood pressure test. Most pregnant women do not experience high blood pressure symptoms. Instead, many find out during routine prenatal checkups.
#1 Blood Pressure Monitor Result
Many of the pregnant high blood pressure symptoms on this list can be caused by unrelated factors. And since high blood pressure may have no symptoms at all, it can be difficult to know. The only surefire pregnancy high blood pressure “symptom” is a high blood pressure reading. If your reading is high, you can contact your doctor to confirm the result and get treated. In serious cases, such as HELLP syndrome (a severe form of preeclampsia), seek medical attention ASAP.
Preeclampsia—high blood pressure with signs of organ damage—still may not cause any symptoms. Those who do get symptoms may experience the signs below.
#2 Persistent Headache
A headache that doesn’t go away can be a sign of high blood pressure and preeclampsia. The headache may be accompanied by vision changes and over-the-counter medication may not help. Although headaches and migraines can be a cause of many other things, it’s a good idea to get it checked out by your healthcare provider.
#3 Swollen Hands and Feet
Swollen hands and feet may be among the most common pregnant high blood pressure symptoms. But they could also be a normal sign of pregnancy. How can you tell? One suggestion is to ask your doctor to compare a pre-pregnancy photo to your swelling now. And if your skin leaves a thumbprint behind, it could also be a sign that swelling is not normal.
#4 Nausea or Vomiting
Although morning sickness is a common pregnancy symptom, it typically subsides as the weeks progress. A sudden onset of nausea after mid-pregnancy could be caused by preeclampsia.
#5 Vision Changes
Preeclampsia can cause changes in vision including light sensitivity, blurry vision, spots, and flashing lights. Since this may be a serious symptom, you should contact your doctor ASAP.
#6 Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain in your upper right quadrant may be a sign of HELLP Syndrome. It can typically be felt under the ribs on the right side. Some people also experience shoulder pain resembling a deep pinching.
#7 Shortness of Breath
High blood pressure can cause extra fluid in the chest, which can cause shortness of breath. If you’re experiencing acute shortness of breath, you should always have it checked by a doctor or seek emergency help.
Remember: Many women don’t experience signs of high blood pressure during pregnancy. That’s why it’s important to attend your prenatal appointments and consider getting a home blood pressure monitor cuff.
How to Take a Blood Pressure Monitor Test At Home
The only way to know whether you have high blood pressure is to take a blood pressure test.
Each prenatal visit, your doctor will likely check your blood pressure using a cuff. Since it’s an important factor of health, it’s a standard tool used during check-ups.
Home blood pressure cuffs can also be used between appointments to track your health. This way, if your blood pressure changes, you won’t need to wait until your next appointment to find out. This allows you to take control of your health and call on your healthcare provider if you spot a problem prematurely.
To use your blood pressure cuff, make sure to follow the directions for your specific model. Here’s how a blood pressure cuff generally works:
- Secure the cuff about 1 inch above the bend in your elbow
- Squeeze the bulb or press the button for automatic cuff inflation
- Wait for pressure reading to be displayed
- Wait for cuff to automatically deflate or deflate manually
Doctor-Approved Blood Pressure Program
To keep track of your blood pressure during pregnancy, try Maternal Health Track™. The wireless digital cuff auto inflates to take your blood pressure. The results are displayed on the connecting app, which tracks your pregnancy blood pressure each reading. Using these vitals, you can keep your doctor or midwife informed. The program also alerts you of possible concerns, making it easy to know what your readings mean. It will also notify you when it’s time to check your blood pressure again.
Since high blood pressure doesn’t usually have symptoms, having a system to track your readings gives you power over your health.
Get Maternal Health Track™ Today!
Blood Pressure When Pregnant: Chart Ranges
If you’re worried about blood pressure when pregnant, a chart can help you know what’s normal. Having a chart handy can help you quickly and visually interpret your blood pressure result.
Since the healthy range for an adult doesn’t change during pregnancy, you can use a standard blood pressure chart. Many blood pressure monitors come with a reference chart in the instruction booklet.
Others models will automatically detect and interrupt your reading for you. Maternal Health Track™ takes your blood pressure and displays the results on your phone. Using the connecting app, you can view your vital reports, which indicate whether your blood pressure falls in a healthy range. The built-in chart makes it easy to view your results and see your 30-day trend.
Every pregnancy blood pressure chart is made of two numbers:
- Systolic blood pressure (the first/upper number)
- Diastolic blood pressure (the second/lower)
A normal blood pressure reading for pregnant and non-pregnant adults is less than 120/80.
Blood Pressure When Pregnant Chart Ranges
Here are the blood pressure classifications according to each category as defined by the National Institutes of Health’s Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee.
<90 mmHg and <60 mmHg
90-120 mmHg and/or 60-80 mmHg
120-139 mmHg and/or 80-89 mmHg
Hypertension Stage 1
140-159 mmHg and/or 90-99 mmHg
Hypertension Stage 2
>160 mmHg and/or >100 mmHg
Summary: Pregnant-Specific High Blood Pressure Symptoms
High blood pressure is a common cause of problems during pregnancy. It can lead to serious and even life-threatening problems, like preeclampsia. Unfortunately, whether or not you’re pregnant, high blood pressure symptoms don’t always present themselves. More often, you won’t know you have high blood pressure until your doctor takes a reading during a check-up. Since there’s often no signs, the best way to know if you have high blood pressure is to frequently test it yourself at home.