Getting pregnant when you suffer from hypertension: all you need to know
According to statistics from the Singapore National Health Survey, 27% of Singaporeans between the ages of 30 and 69 years suffer from hypertension. Does this condition (formally defined as having a blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg or more) affect your fertility, and what should women with this condition keep in mind when trying to get pregnant? Read on to find out more!
What is the difference between chronic and gestational hypertension?
Simply put, if you have an existing condition of hypertension, and you’re taking medications for this condition, you’re experiencing chronic hypertension. On the other hand, if your hypertension occurs for the first time when you’re 20 weeks pregnant (or more!), you’re dealing with gestational hypertension. The latter is temporary , and goes away after childbirth in the vast majority of cases.
For those with chronic hypertension, what do you need to take note of what trying to conceive?
If you’re currently taking medication to keep your condition under control, be sure to talk to your gynaecologist and let him/her know what specific medication you’re taking. Some drugs taken to control this condition might cause complications with pregnancies, so always check with your doctor if this is the case. You can get your medication swapped out or have its dosage titrated, if necessary.
Can I stop taking my medicine if I’m trying to conceive?
Similar to the above, this differs on a case-by-case basis. Assuming your condition is mild and you don’t have other complications (diabetes, kidney disease or the like), your doctor may recommend for you to stop taking your medication temporarily. You’ll need to speak to your doctor and have them advise you on what’s the best course of action for you!
What pregnancy risks am I facing if I’m pregnant whilst I have hypertension?
First and foremost, pregnant women who have hypertension might conceive a baby that’s smaller than normal. The rationale behind this? When your blood pressure is too high, your baby might not get all the necessary nutrients it needs, which results in it growing at a pace that’s slower than usual. The more severe your hypertension, the more likely that you’ll have a baby that’s born on the small side.
In addition to this, women who have this condition are also more likely to deliver early, and have their babies prematurely. According to studies, approximately 62% to 70% of women with severe hypertension deliver early. In the best case scenario, your baby will simply have to remain in the hospital under observation; if he/she is extremely premature and vulnerable to infection, he/she might need to be put on life support in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Last but not least, preeclampsia refers to a situation in which pregnant women experience hypertension in conjunction with signs of damage to certain organs (typically the liver and kidneys). Between 13% to 40% of women with high blood pressure develop preeclampsia during their pregnancy, and this might result in other complications such as fetal growth restriction, placental abruption, and eclampsia. Preeclampsia often requires induced labour and delivery, be it through C-sections or other methods.
If you’re pregnant and suffering from hypertension, be sure to check your blood pressure on a daily basis at home, and get in touch with your doctor immediately if your blood pressure skyrockets. Do also record your baby’s movements (keep a daily kick count!), and contact your doctor if you experience symptoms such as severe headings, blurry vision, and more.