What Is Postpartum Hypertension?

After giving delivery, postpartum hypertension can occur even in those without a history of high blood pressure. Although it frequently shows no symptoms, if left untreated, it can cause major consequences.

High blood pressure soon after giving birth is referred to as postpartum hypertension. Even if your blood pressure is within normal range while you are pregnant, this issue could still develop.

Postpartum hypertension solely impacts blood pressure, as opposed to postpartum preeclampsia, which is characterised by elevated urine protein levels and high blood pressure. But both illnesses are thought to be hazardous and can have major negative effects.

Everything you should know about postpartum hypertension, including potential signs and symptoms, side effects, and available treatments, is provided here.

How does postpartum hypertension develop?

According to several research investigations and clinical reviews, hypertension problems affect roughly 10% of pregnancies. Preeclampsia and gestational hypertension are two of these.

Research on postpartum hypertension is more recent. According to a 2022 study, postpartum hypertension might happen more frequently than previously believed.

It's unclear what specifically causes postpartum hypertension. Even if you have never had high blood pressure before, you may still be at risk if you have a history of it. Hypertension can also occur during pregnancy.

Among the potential reasons or risk factors are:
  • extra fluids were given during the delivery
  • variations in the smooth muscles that line the walls of arteries or in vascular tone
  • pain
  • using NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications,
  • gestational hypertension
  • preeclampsia
  • having a child after turning 35
A blood pressure value of 120/80 mm Hg (millimetres of mercury) or less is considered "normal." A continuously elevated reading falls between 120/80 and 129/80 mm Hg, and if it is 130/80 mm Hg or higher, you may be diagnosed with hypertension.

Your blood pressure may be higher than 140/90 mmHg if you have postpartum hypertension. After giving delivery, you could experience elevated blood pressure within a few days, but you might not be aware of it unless you get regular readings.

The postpartum hypertension timeframe is not fixed. While some cases can only last a few days, others might last for several months. If your postpartum hypertension persists beyond this time frame, your physician can examine you for an alternative cause of elevated blood pressure.

Furthermore, a 2020 analysis found that although postpartum hypertension can appear days after giving birth, women with preeclampsia are more likely to develop hypertension two years after giving birth.

What are the symptoms of postpartum hypertension?

Unfortunately, because high blood pressure doesn't produce any obvious symptoms, postpartum hypertension is hard to diagnose. Diagnosing postpartum hypertension only by blood pressure measurement is not possible.

On the other hand, postpartum preeclampsia symptoms can include elevated blood pressure in addition to:
  • abdominal pain
  • severe headaches
  • vision changes
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Is postpartum hypertension dangerous?

Serious consequences may arise from postpartum hypertension if it is not detected and treated.

These health hazards resemble those of hypertension in general. These issues could include:
  • angina
  • kidney disease
  • organ damage
  • heart attack
  • heart failure
  • stroke
Moreover, a 2021 clinical trial predicts that a woman's chance of developing long-term blood pressure problems is four times higher if she has hypertension during pregnancy.

How is postpartum hypertension treated?

When caught early, postpartum hypertension is very curable. Depending on how severe your high blood pressure is, different treatments are required. The majority of patients with a blood pressure reading of 160/110 mm Hg can be managed at home with prescription drugs like:
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor enalapril (Vasotec)
  • labetalol, a beta-blocker
  • methyldopa, an alpha-2-agonist
  • nifedipine, a calcium channel blocker (Procardia XL)
These kinds of drugs also aid in the treatment of hypertension unrelated to pregnancy. Depending on the pharmaceutical class, potential side effects could include:
  • dizziness (calcium channel blockers)
  • headaches (calcium channel blockers)
  • constipation (calcium channel blockers)
  • high blood potassium (ACE inhibitors)
  • low blood pressure (ACE inhibitors)
  • ankle swelling (calcium channel blockers)
  • insomnia
  • fatigue
  • dry mouth
  • sexual difficulties
  • reduced heart rate
  • fainting
How well your hypertension reacts will determine how long you need to take these drugs. They might need to be taken for a few weeks or even up to three months.

While breastfeeding or chestfeeding can safely treat postpartum hypertension, it's best to avoid using some drugs. Diuretics and angiotensin II receptor blockers are two examples of these.

After postpartum hypertension medication, your condition will also be routinely monitored by a physician due to a long-term elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. They may also suggest long-term lifestyle changes in addition to pregnancy and lactation, like:
  • reduced-sodium intake
  • regular exercise
  • reducing your intake of alcohol (if you drink)
  • giving up smoking (if you do) and staying away from secondhand smoke
  • healthy weight management

The bottom line

Postpartum hypertension is the term used to describe elevated blood pressure following childbirth. This issue may be more common than previously believed, according to recent studies, and it may raise your long-term risk of hypertension and related disorders.

Since hypertension doesn't manifest any symptoms, it's critical to monitor blood pressure frequently after delivery. See a doctor about screenings if you have risk factors for postpartum hypertension and are concerned about the disease.

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