Dangers of High Blood Pressure Late in Pregnancy

Pregnant woman with husband at doctor's office

High blood pressure late in pregnancy can be dangerous for both mom and baby. Find out what your risks are and how you can protect yourself.

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure Late in Pregnancy

The most common symptoms of high blood pressure in pregnancy include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Changes in vision, such as blurred vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain in the abdomen, particularly the upper right side
  • Changes in urination, such as urinating small amounts

A doctor may also notice the following changes:

  • Protein in the urine
  • Changes in kidney or liver functioning, as seen on tests
  • Increased blood pressure

Dangers of Pregnancy-Induced High Blood Pressure

Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, also called PIH, preeclampsia or toxemia, is a potentially dangerous condition that causes an increase in resistance of blood vessels, which may hamper blood flow to the organs, such as the kidneys, liver, uterus, and brain as well as the placenta. Severe difficulty can arise, including premature detachment of the placenta from the uterus or poor fetal growth. In some cases, a stillbirth results. If left untreated, seizures or death can occur among pregnant mothers. While the causes of PIH are not certain, some conditions may increase the risks. The following are examples:

  • Kidney disease
  • Pre-existing instances of high blood pressure
  • Age-a mother younger than 20 or older than 40 has increased risks of PIH
  • Women carrying multiples
  • History of PIH

Treatments for PIH

Treatments for PIH may differ from woman to woman based on your individual condition and your doctor's suggestions. The following are factors that may influence your treatment options:

  • General health and medical history
  • Tolerance to medications and other interventions
  • Personal preferences of the mother
  • Severity of the condition

Not all cases of PIH are severe. If the condition is detected early, treatments may stop it from worsening. In mild cases of PIH, your doctor may advise:

  • Lying on your side to ease weight on the baby and major blood vessels
  • Changes in your diet, such as restricting salt intake and increasing water intake

In severe cases of PIH, your doctor may prescribe the following therapies to reduce the dangers associated with PIH:

  • Hospitalization
  • Medications
  • Bed rest
  • Fetal monitoring

If treatments are unsuccessful, an early caesarean delivery may be required.

Preventing PIH

While you cannot positively prevent PIH, you can reduce your risks and improve your health by taking the following precautions:

  • Limit salt in your diet
  • Avoid unhealthy foods, such as fried and processed foods
  • Stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water
  • Get proper rest
  • Elevate your feet to reduce edema
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages
  • Exercise regularly, but do not begin strenuous workouts without talking to your doctor first


While high blood pressure late in pregnancy is a scary phenomenon, it is rare, occurring in only five to eight percent of all pregnancies. In addition, early detection of the condition may help reduce complications and keep the disease from progressing. With regular prenatal check-ups, your doctor will check your blood pressure, urine, and blood for signs of PIH. Other tests that may identify PIH include ultrasounds (which monitor the size and growth of the baby) and doppler scans (which evaluate the blood flow from mother to baby) . If you think you have high blood pressure, notify your doctor immediately.

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Dangers of High Blood Pressure Late in Pregnancy