Pregnancy Induced Hypertension

Pregnancy-induced hypertension, or PIH, is a form of high blood pressure during pregnancy. Occurring in about 5–8 percent of all pregnancies, PIH is also known as toxemia or preeclampsia, and usually occurs during the second half of a pregnancy term. Unfortunately the exact cause of PIH is unknown at this time, but there are signs and symptoms doctors watch for, including these three main characteristics:

  • Edema (swelling)
  • Protein in urine
  • High blood pressure (readings that are higher than 140/90 mm Hg)

Other characteristics, signs and symptoms doctors look for are:

  • Sudden weight gain
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Visual changes, such as blurred vision
  • Urinating in small amounts
  • Right-sided upper abdominal pain
  • Pain around the stomach area
  • Changes in liver or kidney function

When a woman has high blood pressure, she sees an increase in the resistance of her blood vessels. This resistance can hinder blood flow to the liver, kidneys, brain, uterus, and placenta. Other problems are also known to develop if an expectant mother has PIH. These problems include placental abruption and fetal problems such as poor fetal growth and stillbirth. If PIH is not detected or goes untreated, it can be potentially deadly to mother and baby. Keep in mind that each woman is different, and not all women experience all or any of these symptoms.

Cause of Pregnancy Induced Hypertension

While there is no known cause for this condition, there are other conditions that can increase the risk of developing PIH, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • PIH with previous pregnancies
  • Pre-existing high blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Multiple fetuses
  • Mothers age
  • Chronic hypertension

Who’s at Risk for PIH?

  • First-time mothers
  • Women whose mothers or sisters had PIH
  • Women who had high blood pressure or kidney disease before becoming pregnant
  • Women who are carrying multiple fetuses
  • Women who are under the age of 20 or older than the age of 40

It’s extremely important if you fall into one of these categories that you talk with your healthcare provider about the possibility of developing pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Diagnosing Pregnancy Induced Hypertension

Depending on your blood pressure, diagnosing your PIH may include the following tests:

  • Blood pressure measurement
  • Urine analysis
  • Assessment of edema
  • Frequent weight measurements
  • Eye examination
  • Liver and kidney function tests
  • Blood clotting tests

Treating Pregnancy Induced Hypertension

Your overall health, your medical history, the extent of the disease, and your tolerance for medications will all determine what type of treatment is appropriate for you. Remember that the goal of treatment is to prevent the condition from worsening and causing other complications, so treatment may include:


This page was last updated on 06/2017

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