What Causes Hypertension During Pregnancy

Hypertension During Pregnancy

High blood pressure or hypertension can be defined as a condition where blood pressure is higher than 140/90 mm hg. This condition can become a severe problem for pregnant women after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

What Causes Hypertension During Pregnancy

There are several possible causes for hypertension during pregnancy, including the following major factors:

  • Obesity during pregnancy
  • First-time pregnancy
  • Staying inactive
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Carrying more than one child
  • Being age over 40

Of the above causes, obesity and failing to stay active (being inactive) are the major risk factors for hypertension during pregnancy period.

In addition, women who have had preexisting high blood pressure are at a higher risk of complications during pregnancy than the women with normal blood pressure.


If hypertension during pregnancy continues after 20 weeks, it is specifically known as preeclampsia which is one of the main risk factors during pregnancy.

What Causes Hypertension During Pregnancy

Sign and Symptoms of Preeclampsia

  • Severe headache
  • Excess protein in the urine
  • Change in vision (blurred vision or temporary loss of vision or high light sensitivity)
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Nausea or vomiting tendency
  • Decreased urine output
  • Decreased level of platelets in blood
  • Impaired liver function
  • Shortness of breath (usually caused by the fluid in lungs)

Sudden weight gain and swelling (particularly in your face and hands) often accompany Preeclampsia, but these signs also occur in many normal pregnancies, so they are not considered as the reliable signs.

Risk Factors or Complications of Hypertension During Pregnancy

If Preeclampsia develops, it might cause serious damages to organs including brain and kidneys. Hypertension during pregnancy with seizures may become Eclampsia.

Eclampsia is the condition in which one or more convulsion occur in a pregnant woman suffering from high blood pressure; this often followed by a coma causing a threat to the health of mother and baby.

Hypertension during pregnancy can also have an effect on the baby’s growth rate. This can result in a low birth weight of the baby.

Some other complications can include

  • Preterm delivery (delivery prior to 38 weeks of pregnancy)
  • Placental abruption (a medical emergency during which the placenta detaches from the uterus prematurely)
  • Caesarean sections

Diagnosis of Hypertension During Pregnancy

The following tests should become positive for the diagnosis of hypertension during pregnancy.

  • Hypertension- A blood pressure reading above 140/90 mmHg
  • Proteinuria – Protein is detected in the urine.

Further diagnostic tests may also be used:

  • Blood tests – detects the function of kidneys and liver and the clotting of blood
  • Fetal ultrasound – checks the baby’s progress
  • Non-stress test – checks how the baby’s heartbeat reacts when he moves.


The intake of medications should be done with the prescription of doctors. The following medication might be recommended by doctors.

  • Anti-hypertensives – lowers blood pressure
  • Anticonvulsants – The doctor may prescribe magnesium sulfate in severe cases to prevent the first seizure.
  • Corticosteroids – If the mother suffers from preeclampsia or HELLP syndrome, these drugs may improve platelet and liver functioning, which prolongs the pregnancy.

Image Courtesy:

“Preclancia (1)” By Pilirodriguez –( CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia 

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music