High blood pressure during pregnancy
At each office visit, your health care provider will check your weight and blood pressure. This is done to check for signs of high blood pressure (known as pregnancy-induced hypertension) and the complication of preeclampsia.
Call your health care provider if you have any of these warning signs:
- sudden weight gain (more than two pounds in one day or five pounds in one week)
- sharp or severe pain in your abdomen
- blurred vision
- sudden swelling in your hands and face
- noticeable change in your baby's activity
- vaginal discharge that is watery, bloody or has a bad odor
- sudden vaginal bleeding
- slow leak, steady trickle, or sudden gush of amniotic fluid from the vagina
- a temperature of more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
High blood pressure can cause problems for both you and your baby. When you have high blood pressure, your baby doesn't get enough oxygen and nutrients.
That can lead to your baby not growing well and being born too small. In addition, high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels and organs.
Preeclampsia is a condition in which you have high blood pressure, protein in your urine and swelling (edema). Although preeclampsia can be mild, it can quickly become
Untreated preeclampsia can lead to seizures (eclampsia); damage your blood vessels, nervous system and organs; and even cause death.
Untreated preeclampsia also puts your baby at risk for problems with the placenta and can cause death.
Blood tests are needed for your health care provider to make a diagnosis.
Call your health care provider if you have any of these signs:
- a sudden weight gain of more than one pound a day (two pounds in one day or five pounds in one week)
- swelling (edema) of your hands and face
- decreased amount of urine that is also dark
- severe or constant headache unrelieved by acetaminophen (Tylenol®)
- blurred vision
- pain in upper-right abdomen, a dull achy feeling under your ribs or in your stomach area, and/or flu-like symptoms
- a jittery feeling.
Treatment for preeclampsia depends on whether it is mild or severe.
In general, if you have mild preeclampsia, you will have more visits with your health care provider and more tests to check on your baby's health. These tests include ultrasounds and fetal movement counts. You may also be put on bedrest (see below). It is important to follow your health care provider's advice about resting.
If the preeclampsia becomes severe, you may need to have home nursing services or stay in the hospital. The decision of when and how to deliver your baby epends on the risks to you and the health of your baby.
Red blood cells can contain a protein called Rh factor. Most people have this protein and are known as Rh positive. People who do not have Rh factor are known as Rh negative. A blood test can tell if you are Rh positive or Rh negative.
Problems can develop during pregnancy if you are Rh negative and your baby is Rh positive. During pregnancy you and your baby do not share blood. However, your baby's blood cells can cross the placenta into your blood.
Your Rh negative blood then reacts to your baby's Rh positive blood by making antibodies against your baby's blood. These antibodies can affect your baby by causing:
- brain damage
A blood test can tell if your body has made these antibodies against your baby's blood. If there are no antibodies, you can take a medicine (RhoGAM®) to prevent your blood from reacting against your baby's blood. RhoGAM is given as an injection (shot) in your arm. You may receive RhoGAM at 28 to 32 weeks of pregnancy and/or within 72 hours of giving birth to an Rh positive baby.
Call your health care provider right away if you have signs of preterm labor before 37 weeks of pregnancy:
- change or increase in vaginal discharge
- bleeding from your vagina
- slow leak, steady trickle, or sudden gush of amniotic fluid from your vagina
- a regular pattern of six or more uterine contractions in one hour
- menstrual-like cramps for more than one hour
- increased pelvic pressure for more than one hour
- intestinal cramping, with or without diarrhea or indigestion, for more than one hour
- throbbing in the vagina, cramps in the thighs, or a feeling that your baby is pushing down
- a feeling that things are not right.
If you have a health complication or high-risk pregnancy, you may be put on bedrest.
This can mean:
- working less and spending at least half of each day with your feet up
- being in bed, lying down or sitting up
- lying in bed or on the sofa, getting up only to go to the bathroom.
Ask your health care provider to be specific about the kind of bedrest you need and what you can and cannot do.
Common reasons for bedrest and ways to cope while on bedrest
Going past your due date
Your due date is only an estimate for when your baby is likely to be born. Most babies are born between 37 and 42 weeks. It is normal to give birth to your baby one to two weeks after your due date. Your health care provider will monitor you and your baby during your office visits.
Your health care provider may:
- use an electronic fetal monitor to check your baby's heartbeat
- use an ultrasound to measure the amount of amniotic fluid around your baby (This will also let you see your baby's movements.)
- check for softening and thinning of your cervix
- consider starting labor if it may reduce health risks for you or your baby.
Tips for coping with going past your due date
- Get plenty of rest. It is important to get plenty of rest to build up your energy for labor. Sleep in while you can. If you are having trouble sleeping at night, take naps during the day.
- Let your answering machine pick up your calls. It may be hard to keep answering the phone and telling your family and friends that you are still pregnant. Set up a phone tree for communicating your news.
- Enjoy the extra time. Use the extra time to address birth announcements or write thank you notes. Finish any last minute details in the nursery. Take some time to pamper yourself.
- Keep making plans. You may want you to stay close to home. However, you can still make plans to see a movie or go out for dinner.
- Be cautious about home remedies. You have probably heard of home remedies that may help start labor. These may cause more harm than good. Talk with your health care provider before trying them or alternative treatments.
- Keep in contact with your health care provider. You will need to have frequent checkups until your baby is born. Continue to monitor your baby's movements using the Fetal movement counts worksheet. Call your health care provider any time you are worried about yourself or your baby's well-being.