What Is Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension?
Pregnancy-induced hypertension, or hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, are conditions that cause high blood pressure during pregnancy or recently new mothers up to the first six weeks after delivery. Pregnancy-induced hypertension, also known as peripartum hypertension, is an umbrella term that includes gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, and chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia. Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy affect up to 15% of women.
If you were diagnosed with high blood pressure before or during pregnancy—or experienced preeclampsia or gestational hypertension during pregnancy—you are at a higher risk for high blood pressure after pregnancy.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a serious, and often silent, condition. It can lead to medical complications and even death when untreated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy account for nearly 10% of all maternal deaths within 42 days after having a baby.
Conditions Related to Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension
High blood pressure (hypertension)
During pregnancy, the heart works harder to produce enough blood for the mother and baby. Problems with high blood pressure (also called hypertension) can occur before or during pregnancy, or up to six months after delivery. Left untreated, hypertension can lead to an increased risk of organ damage, vision loss, heart attack, heart disease, and stroke.
Preeclampsia happens in about one in 20 pregnancies. It is characterized by high blood pressure and high protein levels in the urine or organ damage, and can occur at any time during pregnancy or postpartum (see below). Women who have preeclampsia during pregnancy are at higher risk of developing postpartum hypertension.
In rare cases, preeclampsia can continue after giving birth, or it can even start in women who did not suffer with hypertension during pregnancy. Postpartum preeclampsia should be carefully monitored and treated -- it can lead to serious health problems and even death.
Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure that begins in the second or third trimester. It usually goes away after the baby is delivered but can continue for weeks to months after giving birth.
What causes hypertension after pregnancy?
Doctors are not certain what causes postpartum hypertension. However, certain risk factors may increase your likelihood of developing high blood pressure after giving birth.
Breastfeeding is recommended for all women and does not lead to postpartum hypertension. Breastfeeding is safe if you’ve had a hypertensive disorder, and in fact may help reduce hypertension according to the CDC,. Most medications used to treat high blood pressure during pregnancy or postpartum are safe for use during breastfeeding, but be certain to discuss this with your doctor or midwife.
Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy Risk Factors and Complications
While any new mother can develop high blood pressure during pregnancy, these factors can increase your risk:
- Having preeclampsia or another hypertension disorder during a prior pregnancy
- Giving birth to twins, triplets, or more babies
- Being a woman of color
- Being overweight or underweight
- Having your first baby over age 40
- Having a prior medical condition, such as diabetes or chronic high blood pressure
Like all high blood pressure disorders, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and related problems can lead to immediate and long-term medical problems. These include organ damage, vision loss, heart disease, seizures, stroke, and even death. But with early diagnosis, medical care, and lifestyle changes, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy can be effectively treated and managed.
Why Choose UPMC for Hypertensive Disorders of Pregnancy Care?
The UPMC Postpartum Hypertension Program at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital is western Pennsylvania’s only comprehensive and specialized service for hypertensive disorders of pregnancy.
The program brings together cardiologists from the UPMC Magee-Womens Heart Program, part of the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, and maternal-fetal medicine specialists from UPMC Magee’s Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine. With their combined expertise and years of experience caring for new mothers, these specialists offer patients the latest research and best practices.