Blood pressure measures the force that your flowing blood applies to the walls of veins and arteries – in other words, BP measures how hard your heart is working to pump blood across your whole body.
Blood pressure is measured using a sphygmomanometer, and given as a two-number result, “systolic” and “diastolic”, of which only one number needs to be above or below normal to be considered unhealthy. High blood pressure (hypertension) can be especially dangerous during pregnancy, so it’s incredibly important to keep your blood pressure in the optimal range, which is under 120/80.
High blood pressure during pregnancy
High blood pressure can be problematic for all people, but when you’ve got a baby in your womb, it could put both of you at risk. High blood pressure may not be the direct cause of a certain complication, but can indicate a greater problem. The following are among the many possible risks of high blood pressure, or that high blood pressure can hint to, during pregnancy:
- High blood pressure and protein in the urine are the two main symptoms of the dangerous pregnancy condition known as preeclampsia. In rare cases, preeclampsia could cause internal bleeding, seizures, and strokes, along with other complications.
- High blood pressure may often indicate excess stress. Tracking your blood pressure along with your emotions may help you recognize when you may need to make a change.
- Sometimes, high blood pressure can cause baby to be born prematurely. Placental abruptions, in which the placenta is separated early from the baby, are another possible side effect of high blood pressure during pregnancy, and can result in stillbirth.
Your provider will take blood pressure readings at all of your prenatal appointments, and if your blood pressure seems to be increasing, your provider may ask that you begin to track your blood pressure at home. You’ll take a reading at least once a day, and then show these results to your provider at your next appointment. In cases like this, tracking your blood pressure will increase your chances of having a happy and healthy pregnancy.
Low blood pressure during pregnancy
Most moms-to-be will notice their blood pressure drop a bit during pregnancy, because your heart has a bigger and bigger job to take care of as your little one grows and you do too. Low blood pressure is generally not as serious as high blood pressure from a medical standpoint, but there are definitely some risks of low blood pressure during pregnancy, mainly physical.
Low blood pressure can often result in fainting or dizziness, and taking a tumble with a baby in the pouch is definitely something expecting moms want to avoid. So it’s important to know if your blood pressure is at so low a level that fainting or dizziness can be expected.
Tracking your blood pressure will let you know if your readings might be a bit low, and will allow you to identify a much needed day of rest and water.
Tracking your blood pressure
Tracking your blood pressure can be an excellent indicator of the health of your pregnancy, and is a great way to monitor against certain complications like preeclampsia. Tracking your blood pressure along with your other data can also help draw patterns between certain behaviors, so you’ll know how your sleep or nutrition or activity or anything else may affect your blood pressure, and vice versa. However, you should let your healthcare provider know if your blood pressure is consistently elevated.
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- S Kulkarni, I O’Farrell, M Erasi, MS Kochar. “Stress and hypertension.” Wisconsin Medical Journal. 97(11):34-8. Web. Dec-98.
- “Preeclampsia and High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy: FAQ034.” ACOG. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 9/14/2015. Web.
- “High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy.” National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, n.d. Web.
- “Placental abruption.” March of Dimes. March of Dimes, 1/12/2015. Web.