Today’s blog is about high blood pressure or hypertension in pregnancy. While I am a huge advocate for home birth, women who have hypertension in pregnancy are safest birthing in the hospital. The development of hypertension is one of the most common reasons women risk out of home birth care prenatally. 6-9% of all women develop this during pregnancy, but that number has increased significantly over the last 20 years.
Factors that increase risk of hypertension in pregnancy
Women in the U.S. are now frequently delaying having children until their 30s and even 40s. Our cardiovascular systems are more susceptible to hypertension in pregnancy after 35, due to the physical stress of pregnancy and aging vessels. Many women are also entering pregnancy overweight or obese, a big change from 15-20 years ago, and another risk factor for hypertension. Other risk factors include diabetes in or before pregnancy, race (Southeast Asian, Hispanic, Native American, African American), pregnancy with twins/multiples, and having your first baby.
What can you do to decrease your risk?
- Start pregnancy at a normal weight or body mass index (BMI) of <30 prior to conception. There are calculators online, where you plug in your weight and height. Talk to your midwife about evidence based ways to lose weight if that is indicated.
- Focus on only gaining the amount of weight that is appropriate for your BMI.
- Consider planning your pregnancies before you are 35 years old.
- While regular exercise in pregnancy does not directly prevent hypertension in pregnancy, it can keep you within your weight gain goal.
- Eat foods high in magnesium daily. This includes almonds/cashews/brazil nuts, dark leafy greens, dark or at least 70% chocolate, lentils, and seeds. There is some evidence that magnesium can slightly reduce the blood pressure of adults with hypertension. You could also take a magnesium supplement in pregnancy if you have risk factors for GHTN.
- Early research indicates that beetroot juice and hibiscus tea, both high in nitrates, may slightly decrease your blood pressure. This may be helpful for women whose blood pressure is increasing at the end of pregnancy or who are hovering on the edge of chronic hypertension. Consult your provider before you try these options.
- If you have what is called white coat hypertension, or high blood pressure only when at your provider’s office, talk to your provider about monitoring your pressures at home, and how you should communicate your levels to them. Here is a site to help you on your way. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20047889
I hope you have found this information helpful so that you can have a healthy pregnancy and uncomplicated birth. If you want more information about how to remain healthy in pregnancy, or utilize food and supplements safely and effectively, start by reading my post on choosing a prenatal vitamin http://thrivemidwives.com/best-prenatal-vitamins/.