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A look at hypertension in pregnancy

Most people know that hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common condition. What many might not know is that it's also one of the most common complications in pregnancy: It is prevalent in 5-10 percent of pregnant women.

In a recent Q&A session, Sandra Tsai, MD, MPH, spoke with BeWell at Stanford about this condition and its effects:

Hypertension in pregnancy — especially the more severe forms (preeclampsia and eclampsia) — increases the risk for complications such as placenta abruption, acute kidney injury, and death. Longer-term, women diagnosed with hypertension in pregnancy are at risk for future cardiometabolic diseases — including hypertension, diabetes, stroke, and heart attacks.

Tsai also delved into ways to prevent hypertension and discussed her own work in this area:

Lifestyle behaviors — such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, starting pregnancy with a normal weight — may reduce, but may not entirely prevent, a woman’s risk for developing hypertension in pregnancy.

I am interested in helping women maintain a healthy weight throughout pregnancy. Women who start their pregnancy with excess weight are at increased risk for gaining more weight than the Institute of Medicine recommends. If these women can remain within the weight gain guidelines, they may be at less risk of developing pregnancy complications such as gestational hypertension and preeclampsia.

Alex Giacomini is a social media intern in the medical school’s Office of Communication and Public Affairs. 

Previously: Attending to signs of preeclampsia in late-stage pregnancy and The importance of knowing your blood pressure level in preventing hypertension

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