Chronic high blood pressure in pregnant women on the rise

Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases risk of heart disease, stroke

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows one in every three American adults has high blood pressure.

And according a recent study, the number of pregnant moms with chronic high blood pressure is on the rise.

"What we're seeing is more and more women actually have chronic hypertension – which is high blood pressure - before they're pregnant," said Dr. Salena Zanotti of Cleveland Clinic, who did not take part in the study. "What this study showed was during the time frame that was studied, there was almost a six percent rise per year of women who had chronic hypertension." 

Chronic high blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition in which the force of blood pushing against the blood vessel walls is too high.

Uncontrolled hypertension greatly increases a person's risk for heart disease and stroke — but the risks are even higher for pregnant moms.

Zanotti said chronic hypertension, at the start of pregnancy, increases a woman's risk of developing preeclampsia — a severe and significant disease that is harmful to both mom and baby.

She said it's important for women to be the healthiest they can be before they conceive because everything about a mom's health affects the health of her baby.

And getting chronic health conditions under control before pregnancy helps keep women healthy for years to come.

"The important thing for women to also realize — if you have high blood pressure and you are pregnant and develop more blood pressure problems — it affects you down the road," said  Zanotti. "It increases your risk for strokes and heart attacks 10, 20, 30 years down the road." 

Zanotti said many times, blood pressure can be controlled with a good diet, exercise, and not smoking, but there are times when a person needs medication too.  There are some blood pressure controlling medications that are safe to take while pregnant, so it's important for women with chronic hypertension to talk to their doctors.

Complete results of the study can be found in Hypertension.