Chronic or pre-existing hypertension is common in pregnancy and complicates approximately 5% of all pregnancies. Hypertension may be of unknown origin (essential hypertension) or related to kidney or vascular disease (reno-vascular hypertension).
Many of these patients take antihypertensive medications to control their blood pressure. Chronic high blood pressure may also be newly diagnosed if you are less than 20 weeks along. If blood pressures are consistently >140/90, medications are frequently begun by your obstetrician.
In spite of common fears of exposure to medication in pregnancy, most blood pressure medications are safe. With well controlled chronic hypertension, risks to the fetus are few, but caution must be taken. Chronic hypertension puts patients at a small risk for growth restricted babies, low amniotic fluid and developing a superimposed blood pressure disorder (as below).
We here at Austin Perinatal recommend a comprehensive fetal anatomy ultrasound, monthly monitoring of fetal growth from 24 weeks until delivery and weekly fetal well-being assessments using the ultrasound procedure called a biophysical profile beginning at 32 weeks. Additionally, your health will be assessed at weekly office visits from 32 weeks until delivery. Delivery is often recommended by 38 – 39 weeks to avoid worsening blood pressure at term.