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High blood pressure and pregnancy

Dr. Michael R. Foley, MD, FACOG, is the chair and program director of the Obstetrics and Gynecology department at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. For more information on this topic, talk with your doctor or call (602)-230-2273 (CARE).

Question: My husband and I are trying to get pregnant, but I am on medication for high blood pressure. Is it safe for me to become pregnant?

Answer: While high blood pressure is certainly something doctors monitor during pregnancy, it does not mean you cannot have a healthy pregnancy. Since you in the process of trying, now would be a good time to talk to your women’s health care professional about your plans. An important thing to ask whether the medication you are taking is safe for you to take while pregnant.

If it is not, your physician can make the change in your prescription. It is much better to make changes in your medications that could impact your blood pressure before you become pregnant, so your body has time to become accustom to the changes before enduring all the other changes that occur during pregnancy.

Once you are pregnant, it is important to inform your OB/GYN right away about your high blood pressure and your medication. The physician will want to monitor your blood pressure levels throughout your pregnancy. You might be referred to a perinatologist, a physician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies. You will check in with this doctor several times during your pregnancy to make sure all is well with you and your baby.

One reason we monitor pregnancies with high blood pressure so closely is that it can lead to the development of preeclampsia, a risky high blood pressure condition that can occur 20 weeks and later into the pregnancy. If this condition develops prior to 37 weeks of pregnancy, the mother will most likely be monitored more frequently, asked to reduce time on her feet and limit salt intake. Your physician may even increase the dosage of your blood pressure medications to safely improve control.

While there is an increase risk of this condition for women with a history of high blood pressure, it is certainly not a guarantee. Optimization of your blood pressure prior to pregnancy is extremely helpful. If you control your blood pressure levels before and throughout pregnancy, and limit your salt intake, you are on the right track to better maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

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