During pregnancy, changes occur to the heart and blood vessels. The heart and blood vessels adapt to your pregnancy by working more efficiency—your blood pressure is lowered, and your heart beats stronger without undue stress on the heart. Clotting factors increase in pregnancy to protect against excessive blood loss during labor. Women who engage in cardiovascular exercise routines regularly have an advantage during pregnancy compared to women who don’t exercise. They have shorter labors, and fewer complications.
Hypertensive disorders are a common complication of pregnancy, especially in first pregnancies and women younger than the age of 20 or older than 40. When hypertension in association with increased protein in the urine is seen in the later stages of pregnancy, preeclampsia is diagnosed. In fact, prenatal care evolved to detect hypertensive complications in the early stages of pregnancy to reduce the impact on mother and baby. So, prenatal care offers the best chance for a good pregnancy, birth and child.
Common signs and symptoms seen in worsening hypertension suggestive of preeclampsia include: headache unrelieved with aspirin or Tylenol, blurred vision, sudden weight gain, passing smaller amounts of urine, breathing problems, abdominal pain and vomiting, dizziness and sudden weight gain. Contact your doctor immediately if you begin experiencing any of these symptoms. Otherwise, your healthcare provider will check your blood pressure and urine levels at your prenatal checkup to determine if you have hypertension.
The good news is that mild cases often do not need any treatment apart from certain lifestyle changes as the high blood pressure goes away on its own after delivery. Following a proper healthy diet and restricting activity levels helps to control your blood pressure. More serious cases may require close monitoring and blood pressure medicines along with bed rest, to prevent the condition from advance to preeclampsia. Regular natural remedies used for lowering high blood pressure are not recommended for pregnant women.
Some contributing factors to high blood pressure can be controlled while others can’t. To help reduce your risk of GH, below is a list of heart healthy tips during pregnancy:
- Reduce your salt intake
- Practicing prenatal yoga and relaxation techniques to reduce stress
- Drink at least eight glasses of water a day
- Increase the amount of protein you take in and decrease the amount of fried foods and junk food you eat
- Get enough rest
- Exercise regularly
- Elevate your feet several times during the day
- Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol and beverages containing caffeine
- Take prescribed medicine and additional supplements if prescribed by your doctor