Pregnancy Information Center

Information, Symptoms, Treatments and Resources


Blood Pressure (BP) Increase During Pregnancy: Your Symptoms Manual


What Blood Pressure Increase During Pregnancy Is

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is an increase in blood pressure. You may not experience any symptoms, but some women have headaches, visual disturbances, water retention and/or vomiting. 

Although high blood pressure can occur at any time during your pregnancy, it's more common near your due date

If your blood pressure goes up during your pregnancy, you'll have to visit your healthcare provider more often for additional checks. Your provider may also do blood and urine tests to make sure you aren't developing preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication associated with high blood pressure that occurs in 5 to 8% of pregnancies worldwide. Risk factors include being pregnant with multiples (twins or higher), being pregnant for the first time, being over 35 or under 20 years of age, and having a history of diabetes, high blood pressure or kidney disease. 


Why Blood Pressure Increase During Pregnancy Happens

It's not entirely clear why some women get high blood pressure in pregnancy. Possible causes include autoimmune disorders, blood vessel problems, diet and genetics. Women who are having their first baby, who are over 35 or under 20, or who are having more than one baby are more likely to have high blood pressure. Obesity also increases your risk of hypertension.

In some women, cells from the placenta produce chemicals called vasoconstrictors, which shrink blood vessels. This may cause your blood pressure to rise and your kidneys to retain sodium, leading to water retention.

Your blood pressure should return to normal after your baby is born, but it can take up to 6 weeks. Women with a history of hypertension during pregnancy are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life.

How to Manage Blood Pressure Increase During Pregnancy 

  • Track your blood pressure. You can keep a record of your blood pressure and print out the charts for your doctor visits using MedHelp's free Blood Pressure Tracker.
  • Follow your OB’s advice. If your blood pressure is very high, you may need to start medication to keep it in a healthy range. No one likes to take medications, especially during pregnancy, but if you've been advised to take an antihypertensive medication, please do!
  • Keep your prenatal visits. These can help to keep you on track and screen for any worsening high blood pressure or the development of preeclampsia. Also, you may be asked to get extra ultrasounds to observe baby's growth and nonstress tests to check the fetal heart rate.

What the Risks to Your Baby Are from Blood Pressure Increase During Pregnancy 

High blood pressure can result in a decreased blood flow to the placenta and baby. If severe, this can restrict the baby's growth and, in that case, you may be delivered early to prevent further problems. 

Preeclampsia can also result in early delivery, due to concerns for the baby or the mom. This means the baby may need special care in a neonatal intensive care unit or NICU after birth. The risks involved in this decision are carefully weighed, usually with the help of a high-risk ob/gyn, before any recommendation is made. If delivery isn't the next step, you and your baby will be closely monitored.


Reviewed by Elisabeth Aron, MD, MPH, FACOG on January 22, 2016.
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