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Around 1 in every 20 women will develop high blood pressure during their pregnancy. High blood pressure in pregnancy can be successfully treated with lifestyle changes such as healthy eating and being more active. Some medicines are also available which can be safely taken during pregnancy, and which will not harm the baby.
If you develop high blood pressure during your pregnancy, your blood pressure should return to its normal level after your baby is born. Blood pressure levels can also rise sharply following the delivery of a baby, and this can continue for a few weeks. It is important to monitor your blood pressure closely after you have given birth, to make sure that it returns to normal.
High blood pressure in a previous pregnancy does not mean that you will have it again in a later pregnancy, but you will have a slightly higher chance of developing it than other women.
Can I get pregnant if I have high blood pressure?
If you already have high blood pressure and you become pregnant, or if you are planning to have a baby, it is important to talk to your doctor. It is possible to have a successful and healthy pregnancy, but if you do have high blood pressure you have a slightly greater chance of complications than other women. So you will need to be monitored more closely than women who do not have high blood pressure.
In addition, your doctor may wish you to change your blood pressure medicines, or even ask you to stop taking them during your pregnancy. It is thought that some blood pressure medicines such as ACE inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers may restrict a baby's growth.
If you need to continue to take blood pressure medicines during your pregnancy, there are some medicines that are known to be safe, such as methyldopa. Your doctor will be able to advise you.
What is pre-eclampsia?
Pre-eclampsia is a form of high blood pressure in pregnancy that is caused by a problem with the placenta. If pre-eclampsia is not detected, the results can be dangerous for both mother and baby.
Pre-eclampsia is identified by having high blood pressure and having protein in the urine. Sometimes the baby may be slow to grow, and the mother may have swollen hands and feet. If you do develop pre-eclampsia, you and your baby will be closely monitored. The only way to stop pre-eclampsia is for the baby to be delivered, which can sometimes mean a premature birth.
If you already have high blood pressure, then you have a slightly higher chance of developing pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. Your doctor and midwife will closely monitor your blood pressure and will treat it if it starts to rise.
Can I breastfeed if I am taking blood pressure medicines?
Speak to your doctor if you intend to breastfeed your baby. Most blood pressure medicines are thought to be safe in breastfeeding, but many doctors will try to avoid using them to be certain. One blood pressure medicine, a beta-blocker called atenolol, has been found to get into breast milk, so you should not use this medicine.