Pregnancy is a challenging time indeed. Apart from all those symptoms, it can also lead to several complications and problems for you. And PIH or Pregnancy Induced Hypertension is one form of hypertension that expecting women typically suffer. Studies suggest that nearly 10% of all pregnant women report cases of PIH every year. In many cases, PIH can also turn fatal if left untreated. So, if your doctor has diagnosed you with PIH or you are simply looking for some more information on the disorder, consider reading our post below!
What Is PIH?
If you have developed high BP 20 weeks or more into your pregnancy, but tests do not show any traces of protein in your urine, you are likely to have contracted pregnancy induced hypertension or gestational hypertension as most doctors call it. Doctors will first rule out preeclampsia before they diagnose you for PIH (1).
Gestational hypertension is easy to manage if diagnosed early. However, if left untreated gestational hypertension can manifest into more severe cases of high blood pressure (2). High BP during pregnancy can manifest in three different ways:
1. Chronic Hypertension:
Women who report high blood pressure clocking over 140/90 on most checkups, before pregnancy, and continue to suffer from it even after having conceived are said to suffer from chronic hypertension.
2. Gestational Hypertension:
High blood pressure that sets in after week 20 in pregnancy, but normalizes after childbirth is referred to as gestational hypertension.
Both chronic hypertension and gestational hypertension, if left untreated, can lead to Preeclampsia – a severe health condition after the week 20 of pregnancy. Few of the many symptoms of Preeclampsia include high blood pressure that does not abate with protein traces in the urine (3). The health condition can pose serious complications for both the mom and the growing baby if timely medical intervention is not sought.
Risks Of Pregnancy Induced Hypertension For You And Your Baby:
PIH can prevent the choke the blood supply to the placenta. And, it is the placenta that carries oxygen and food from the mother to the baby (4). When the placenta doesn’t receive enough blood, the fetus too is starved and gets less oxygen and food. It can lead to low birth weight and other developmental problems for your unborn baby.
Most women who suffer from PIH need medical help deliver healthy babies. A few mothers also develop a condition called eclampsia or preeclampsia, which is high BP accompanied by seizures (5). The condition can be serious both for the mother and baby.
The bright side is that PIH is diagnosed quite early in most women who go for regular checkups and with the proper care, both mom and baby can stay healthy throughout the pregnancy term.
Symptoms Of PIH:
It is important that you understand the symptoms of pregnancy induced hypertension and not ignore them. A few of the many symptoms that women suffering from PIH report include:
- Severe recurrent headaches
- Excessive sweating on the palms and soles
- Vomiting blood
- Reduced urination
- Traces of blood in urine
- Buzzing sound in the ears
- Excessive nausea or vomiting
- Rapid heartbeat
- Unusual pain in the abdominal or tummy region.
- Double or blurred vision
Does High Blood Pressure Mean You Have PIH?
If you have a high BP, it does not necessarily mean that you have contracted PIH. If your gynecologist finds that your BP is abnormally high, she will monitor your blood pressure and recommend tests to indicate the presence of PIH.
Apart from high blood pressure, most women who have PIH also experience excessive swelling and show protein in their urine (6). However, every woman who suffers from high BP while expecting may not have PIH.
Does Swelling Mean I Have PIH?
Although we did mention that swelling can indicate PIH. However, it needs to be accompanied by other symptoms. Swelling is one of the symptoms of pregnancy, and your doctor may not be overly concerned about the swelling unless it refuses to recede. Your marriage ring or even boots may seem too tight, but this is quite normal!
Swelling is considered and deemed more serious if it doesn’t go away even after ample rest. A swelling in your face and hands that is obvious or a rapid weight gain of more than 6 pounds a week could be more than just normal swelling and must be checked by a medical practitioner.
Who Is At Risk For PIH?
PIH is generally hereditary, so if your mom or grandmom suffered from PIH, chances are you will too (7). It is common for women who are pregnant for the first time.
The risk of PIH is higher in women carrying twins or triplets or in very young (teen moms) or older women (above 35 moms).
Other women who are at risk of contracting PIH during their term are those who have had abnormally high blood pressure or an underlying kidney disease before becoming pregnant (8).
There is no such test that diagnoses PIH. If you are expecting, your doctor is bound to check your blood pressure levels as part of your monthly check up. An abnormal rise in BP can be indicative of PIH. If your BP is found to be high in two or three consequent doctor visits, your doctor will order you a urine test. This test can tell if there are any traces of protein in your urine, which will help her rule out PIH. If you exhibit any symptoms of PIH, your doctor every day for a few weeks for close monitoring and observation.
During routine prenatal checkups and tests, your doctor will monitor and tabulate your BP, weight gain, and urine protein for future reference. If you continue to feel abnormally fatigued or suffer from other symptoms of PIH, the doctor will prescribe additional tests.
If PIH is diagnosed or even suspected, the doctor will order a non-stress test to monitor your growing baby (9). Doctors typically use an ultrasound transducer to record your baby’s heart rate. This test also uses a toco transducer that helps view and record uterine activity.
When your baby is active, the fetal heart rate tends to increase. So, these tests help map and understand if your child is growing.
Does PIH Affect My Baby?
While most women ignore symptoms of high BP and PIH, as typical pregnancy discomforts, it is important that you be careful during your pregnancy. PIH, if left untreated, can cause harm to both mother and baby.
Hypertension, increase in BP, and PIH can prevent the placenta, which takes food and nutrients to the baby, from getting enough blood. When the placenta does not get a good blood supply, your baby will get less oxygen and food (10). This will hamper your child’s growth and development. In some cases, it can result in low birth weight. Women can deliver a healthy and happy baby if PIH is diagnosed and treated on time.
If left untreated, PIH can lead to other complications such as preeclampsia that can have stronger health repercussions for you and your baby.
Treatment Of Pregnancy Induced Hypertension:
High blood pressure is never left to self-heal in expecting mothers. The treatment doctors typically follow depends on what causes the high BP.
1. Chronic Hypertension:
If you have been suffering from high BP before conceiving, it is likely that you are already on medication (11). In such cases, your physician will review the medicines you are taking and advise you further.
If the doctor deems the medication you are consuming as unsafe for your baby, he may change the medication to something less strong and safe for your baby.
Your gynecologist will closely observe your baby’s growth. You will have to undergo more ultrasound tests to monitor your baby’s growth. The physician will watch for other signs that may indicate you can develop PIH.
2. Gestational Hypertension:
In most cases, gestational hypertension does not need much medical intervention. However, in some cases it may become hard to understand if your condition stems from early or mild PIH.
And so, your gynecologist will pay close attention and monitor your baby’s growth and your blood pressure levels to ensure your high BP, does not turn into PIG.
In some cases, you may be asked to consume a small dose of aspirin or some extra calcium to keep PIH at bay (12). You will also benefit greatly by lying down on your left side when you are resting or napping as this improves blood circulation and takes the pressure off your blood vessels.
It is PIH that needs proper medical care. But how exactly your gynecologist treats this condition depends on many factors. One important factor is how close is your due date and how well is your baby coping and growing.
When PIH gets severe, the only treatment is to deliver the baby. It is needless to say that if your baby is born too early, the likelihood of it having health problems is high (13). But, if you are too sick or your baby is under stress, delivery may be the best option. Post delivery, both you and your baby will be monitored, and the best medical help will be rendered.
If your gynecologist thinks it is safe for you to continue your pregnancy to full term, she will monitor both you and your baby very closely right until the due date. You will have to see your doctor more often and get routine blood and urine tests done.
The specific treatment for PIH will be set by your gynecologist based on:
- Your medical history and general health
- Seriousness or extent of the illness
- Tolerance towards certain medications, or therapies
- The goal of treatment prescribed is mainly to ensure that your condition does not get worse and cause other complications for you and your baby. In most cases a combination of the below treatment is prescribed to patients suffering from PIH:
- Complete Bed rest may be recommended
- In some cases, hospitalization may be suggested in order to monitor rise in BP
- Antihypertensive medications such as magnesium sulfate (14).
- Routine Fetal monitoring if you are diagnosed with PIH to track:
- Fetal kicks and movement count: A sudden change in the number of kicks may indicate your growing baby is under stress.
- Nonstress testing: This measures your baby’s heart rate as compared to its movements (15).
- Biophysical profile: This is a test that is a combination of a non-stress test with ultrasound to observe the growth, development and movement of the fetus (16).
- Lab tests: Urine and blood tests will be done on a more regular basis to track any abnormal changes.
- Doppler flow studies – An ultrasound test that employs sound waves to measure blood flow and circulation (17).
- Oral medication like corticosteroids may be given to help the lung growth in the unborn baby.
- Delivery of the baby: In some cases, if the baby is under stress, the doctor may suggest immediate intervention. This may be done even if the doctor finds the mother’s health at high risk. A C section is performed to deliver the baby.
There is no one medication or sure shot way to prevent high BP or PIH during pregnancy. However, some of the contributing factors to high blood pressure can be easily monitored as well as controlled.
Early detection of high BP and identification of women who are at high risk for pregnancy-induced hypertension can keep PIH at bay. It is important to talk to your doctor regarding diet and exercise and take his or her advice seriously. Some simple ways to keep PIH and high BP at bay include:
- Reduce intake of salt.
- Drink at least 10 glasses of clear water every day.
- Reduce junk food and increase protein intake.
- Get ample rest.
- Dedicate 30 minutes to low impact exercises.
- Use a pillow or wedge to elevate both feet as and when you can.
- Resist the temptation to consume alcohol.
- Reduce stress levels.
- Eat healthy and maintain a healthy and steady weight gain.
- Limit your intake of caffeine and entirely avoid tobacco.
- Monitor your BP levels regularly.
Will You Need To Undergo A C-Section If You Have PIH?
You will be recommended a Cesarean section only if your health or your baby’s health is in danger. In most cases where PIH can be controlled, a C-section is not advised. Your gynecologist will simply use oxytocin to induce labor, so that you can deliver your baby through a vaginal delivery.
PIH After Pregnancy:
After your baby is born, your blood pressure will continue to be closely monitored and your gynecologist and support staff will watch you for any symptoms of preeclampsia. Most likely, your BP will fall back into permissible and safe levels within a few weeks of delivery.
In some rare cases, though, the BP remains elevated. If you feel uncomfortable and your blood pressure is still quite high three months after child birth, you will be diagnosed with chronic hypertension. This means you perhaps suffered from chronic BP even before pregnancy but did not know, that you did!
Pregnancy and hormonal changes generally make your BP dip at the wag end of your 3rd trimester and it stays low for most of your second trimester. This can hide chronic hypertension. But, at the end of your second trimester, your BP returns to normal and you may begin to experience symptoms of high BP.
- Chronic hypertension: Your blood pressure will continue to stay long after childbirth and you will need to continue medication. Follow a good diet and exercise regimen to keep your BP under tabs.
- Gestational hypertension: Your BP will set back to normal in just a few weeks after delivery. But, you are likely to develop chronic BP sometime later in life. Watch your diet and exercise regularly.
- PIH: If you suffered from PIH, your blood pressure will be normal within a few weeks after your child is born.
Hypertenstion Complications During Pregnancy:
Apart from PIH, hyperension can lead to many complications during pregnancy. Some of the common ones include:
If you have been suffering from High blood pressure even before conceiving, you are likely to know how stressed, you can feel at times. Imagine the stress that can pass on to your unborn baby. Having high BP can lead to growth related problems. It can cut off the blood supply to your baby and make it grow too slowly, which will lead to health complications. Many women who have had chronic hypertension and left it untreated have reported to have developed PIH.
2. Gestational Hypertension:
The condition generally does not pose any health concerns to both you and your baby. In some cases, gestational hypertension progresses into PIH.
PIH can cause a lot of discomfort. You are likely to suffer from recurrent headaches, abdominal pain, impaired vision and spells of dizziness. PIH can cause other complications such as:
PIH can also delay development in babies, and even cause premature delivery. Low birth weight is yet another possibility in women suffering from PIH.
PIH can lead to placental abruption or tear off, when the placenta suddenly pulls off the wall of the uterus. This will cause severe fetal distress and in some cases, bleeding in the mother.
In some cases of PIH, the mother begins to suffer from seizures that can be a life threatening condition.
Many people who suffer from PIH also tend to report liver problems
There have been many cases of kidney failures reported in moms suffering from PIH
If PIH turns severe, and the doctor is unable to keep your BP under normal levels and if your baby is showing distress, a c section will have to be performed much before the due date. This will mean your premature baby will need a lot of medical care and attention. Such babies are kept under incubators until they can breathe and sustain on their own.
If you suffer from high BP or PIH and get seizures, seek immediate medical help. PIH with seizures is a severe health condition that is known as called eclampsia, and can increase the risk of death in some cases. Doctors prescribe magnesium sulfate to expectant mothers during labor in order to prevent eclampsia.
In the rare cases that you may develop Preeclampsia, extra care and caution will need to be taken throughout your pregnancy term. Sudden weight gain, vomiting accompanied with stomach and abdominal pain and swelling are few symptoms of preeclampsia. Your doctor will give you oral medication to bring the condition under control. A few simple home remedies in conjunction with the medication will help you immensely.
Home Remedies For Preeclampsia:
- Lemon Juice: Extract the juice of a lemon and add it to a cup of water. Heat this water for about 10 minutes, strain and drink. You can drink this concoction up to 3 times a day, without worry.
- Alternatively, you can also add a few drops of lemon to your tea, which will help you bring preeclampsia under control.
- Celery: Dry and powder celery. Add a few teaspoons of this fine powder to a bowl of water and boil. Let the water, steep and then drink it up. Drink this herbal tea at least 3 times a day.
- Alternatively, you can simply mix the powder with water and drink.
- Garlic: Grind 3 cloves of garlic and add it to a cup of water. Boil, steep and strain. Drink this concoction after each meal.
- Beet: This red veggie is said to be effective in treating preeclampsia naturally. Simply juice and drink the beet or eat them in your salad.
PIH can be treated without any serious harm to both mother and baby. It is important that you remain watchful for any signs that seem out of the ordinary and seek immediate medical attention. Remember a stitch in time saves nine.