The most common problem to occur during pregnancy is pregnancy induced hypertension.  About 6-8% of women are affected with this problem.  What is pregnancy induced hypertension?  It is the condition of having a higher than normal blood pressure.

Some factors affecting occurrence of this common problem are first pregnancy, less than two years since last pregnancy, or more than 10 years since last pregnancy.  Other risk factors include chronic hypertension, renal disease, and obesity.  Pregnancy induced hypertension also occurs more in families, so if a woman’s mother or sister suffered with this condition, the chances are higher of occurrence.

Pregnancy induce hypertension might be completely symptomless.  However, it may cause blurred vision or other sight problems. Migraine headaches, rapid weight gain, or upper abdominal pain may occur.  Other symptoms include shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting.

The worries with pregnancy induced hypertension are that it may induce blood clots, heart problems, seizures, or death.  In fact, pregnancy induced hypertension is one of the three leading causes of death during pregnancy. Hypertension is responsible for about 15% of maternal deaths, and causes about 25% of pregnant women to be hospitalized for complications before delivery.

Pregnancy induced hypertension has three types.

Chronic Hypertension

Usually chronic hypertension has no cause, but it can be caused by kidney problems, hormone problems, thyroid problems, or complications from other medicine.  It happens early in the pregnancy.


Preeclampsia is not well understood, but can be life threatening.  Signs of this condition are hypertension, swelling, and proteinuria.   Seizures can occur with this condition, but deaths have occurred without any seizures.  This can cause problems causing the blood vessels to spasm and shrink.  If the blood vessels shrink, the blood pressure increases and the vessels can leak.  It can also cause problems in the brain, lungs, or kidneys.  It can also lower blood flow to the baby.

Transient Hypertension

Transient hypertension happens late in pregnancy.  After delivery, the blood pressure adjusts back to normal.  But it does increase the chance of having to deal with high blood pressure when older.

Treatment for Pregnancy Induced Hypertension

Treatment for pregnancy induced hypertension is varied, and some are used without even being sure that they work. 

The treatments without proof include restricted activity and dietary changes.  Others include restricting salt, supplemental calcium and magnesium, and fish oil. 

Low dose aspirin is sometimes recommended, with some proof that it does work.  One of the first, more substantial treatments that doctors will usually try is alpha-adrenergic inhibitors.  Studies have shown that these will not harm the baby, although there may be allergy or liver problems for the mother.

Beta-adrenergic receptor blockers include some medicines that are safe and some that are not.  Of course, the doctor will start with the safer choices.

There are less safe choices.  These include calcium channel blockers, centrally acting alpha-adrenergic agonist, diuretics, and vasodilators, but they are to be used only when other, safer drugs are not working.  Some are only used while the mother is hospitalized and under direct care and observation.

So, what is pregnancy induced hypertension?  It is a condition that can affect any woman who is pregnant.  Keeping up with regular doctor visits is essential to keeping blood pressure in control during pregnancy.