High blood pressure and pregnancy isn’t necessarily a dangerous combination. But having hypertension during pregnancy requires special care, irrespective of whether you are diagnosed with this problem before or after conception.
High blood pressure, medically known as hypertension, means the force of the blood that pushes against the walls of your arteries is too high. Blood pressure readings of 140/90 mm Hg is considered too high.
While hypertension can affect anyone, pregnant women are at an increased risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an increasing number of pregnant women in the United States suffer from hypertension. In fact, according to the American Pregnancy Association, high blood pressure affects about 6 to 8 percent of pregnant women.
During pregnancy, women can suffer from different types of high blood pressure, such as:
- Gestational hypertension that develops after 20 weeks of pregnancy
- Chronic hypertension that was present before pregnancy or that occurs before 20 weeks of pregnancy
- Chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia that occurs in women with chronic high blood pressure before pregnancy
- Preeclampsia, a type of pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system.
High blood pressure during pregnancy puts extra stress on your heart and kidneys, which in turn increase the risk of heart disease, kidney disease and strokes. Along with these, other complications may include fetal growth restriction, preterm delivery, placental abruption and cesarean delivery.
When suffering from hypertension during pregnancy, it is important to monitor your blood pressure level closely throughout the pregnancy. Managing your blood pressure can help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. At the same time, ultrasound exams should be done frequently to track the growth of the baby in the womb.
Here are the top ways to lower your high blood pressure during pregnancy.
1. Avoid Salt and High-Sodium Foods :
Generally, when people with high blood pressure cut back on salt, their blood pressure falls. It even prevents blood pressure from rising.
During pregnancy, you must keep a check on your salt intake to keep your blood pressure under control.
- Do not add lots of salt to foods when cooking. Use herbs and spices instead to add flavor to your dish.
- Avoid processed foods, fast food and sports drinks, which are high in sodium even if they don’t taste salty.
- Avoid canned foods as they are often high in sodium.
2. Try Controlled Breathing :
Deep breathing is a popular relaxation technique that helps lower your stress levels and stabilize your blood pressure.
Moreover, every time you take in a deep breath, the well-oxygenated blood gets delivered to each and every cell in the body. This in turn provides energy and makes you feel good overall.
- Lie down comfortably on your back.
- Place your hands on your chest and below the rib cage.
- Slowly inhale through your nose so that you feel your stomach move up.
- Slowly exhale through your mouth by counting to 5, while keeping the abdominal muscles tight.
- Repeat 10 times and keep your breathing regular and slow.
- Practice deep breathing for 10 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day, to manage your blood pressure and keep your heart healthy.
3. Enjoy Walking and Get Moving :
Inactive women are at a higher risk of hypertension during pregnancy than those who exercise. Walking is one of the best cardiovascular exercises for pregnant women.
Hypertensive pregnant women can lower their blood pressure by enjoying a brisk walk of 30 to 45 minutes on a daily basis. It is a safe activity to continue throughout all nine months of the pregnancy.
- Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day or most days throughout the week.
- If you are a beginner, try low-intensity walking or swimming.
- Always talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program and ask if it is safe for you to do certain activities.
4. Add potassium-rich foods to your diet :
Potassium-rich foods should be a part of your hypertension management diet. Foods you should add include sweet potatoes, tomatoes, kidney beans, orange juice, bananas, peas, potatoes, dried fruits, melon and cantaloupe.
Potassium is an important mineral during pregnancy. It helps maintain your fluid and electrolyte balance. It also aids in the transmission of nerve impulses, contraction of your muscles and the release of energy from carbohydrates, fat and protein.
- Keep your target potassium levels moderate (around 2,000 to 4,000 mg a day).
5. Listen to music :
Listening to the right type of music for at least 30 minutes, 2 or 3 times a day, can lower your blood pressure. As an added bonus, music can help you deal with stress and anxiety, which can make things more complicated during pregnancy. Stress is also not good for your unborn baby.
low-tempo and low-pitch music, without lyrics or loud instrumentation, can calm people down, even during highly stressful times.
Listening to soft and soothing music during pregnancy also helps create a wonderful bonding experience for you and your baby. Plus, it enhances the stimulation of your unborn baby’s growing brain, and improves sleeping patterns for a newborn baby.
6. Monitor Your Weight :
Being overweight is a risk factor for hypertension and thus, you need to take caution to keep your pregnancy weight gain within healthy limits. A proper diet and regular exercise are ways to manage your weight gain during pregnancy.
- Preeclampsia is associated with hypertension and weight gain during pregnancy, so it is important to avoid gaining too much weight and to avoid gaining weight too quickly. Preeclampsia can lead to kidney and liver problems for the mother and complications for the baby.
- Being overweight also increases the risk of other health conditions during pregnancy, such as back aches, exhaustion, leg cramps, hemorrhoids, gestational diabetes, heart burn and aching joints.
Through a healthy diet and a proper exercise routine, you can get to a healthy weight. Talk to your doctor about the weight that’s right for you and follow the instructions given by your doctor.
Additional Tips :
- Get early and your regular prenatal medical care. If your doctor says you need medicine to keep your blood pressure under control, be sure to take it every day as prescribed.
- Those who are at high risk for preeclampsia may have to take low-dose aspirin to help prevent it. This will be advised by your doctor.
- Don’t stop taking any medicine without talking to your doctor.
- Smoking and drinking put stress on your heart and cardiovascular system. It is also dangerous to your baby’s health. Say no to smoking and drinking while you are pregnant.
- Avoid caffeine during pregnancy, as it has been linked to reduced placental blood flow and a risk of miscarriage.