High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can cause a variety of health complications during pregnancy. During this precious time, it’s important for you to take good care of yourself as after all, taking care of your own health means you are taking good care of your growing baby inside.
You may have experienced high blood pressure before your pregnancy or it might have only developed since being pregnant. Either way, it’s important you do your best to reduce it before you require medical treatment.
What are the dangers of high blood pressure?
You may have heard the word ‘preeclampsia’ during your pregnancy. This is because it’s a serious pregnancy complication which can develop at any point during your 9 months and throughout your pregnancy, your healthcare provider will be watching out for this. Preeclampsia develops in 6% of UK pregnancies but can be fatal. It is commonly diagnosed with high blood pressure and generally occurs after week 20 of your pregnancy but can develop earlier. It’s worth being aware of but doesn’t feel too anxious as high blood pressure doesn’t automatically result in preeclampsia– there can be many other causes of hypertension.
High blood pressure can also cause decreased blood flow to the placenta, resulting in your baby receiving less oxygen and nutrients. This can then lead to low birth weight, premature delivery and low birth weight.
Can you reverse the effects of high blood pressure?
Good news – the effects of high blood pressure can be reversed with some slight changes to your daily lifestyle, often in the same way you prevent high blood pressure. Following the tips below can encourage healthier blood vessels and a healthier heart. It can be easy to give in but lowering your blood pressure and getting healthier is much easier than you think! Persevere with it and you and your baby will benefit.
How can you prevent high blood pressure?
Ditch the car! Seriously… studies show that walking just 30 minutes a day can contribute to lowering your blood pressure. You’d be surprised how easily you can fit those 30 minutes into your daily schedule. Walk those 2-minute car journeys instead! Not only is regular exercise good for your health, but it also helps to ensure the physical challenges of pregnancy such as childbirth and labour pains.
Making small changes to your diet can do wonders for hypertension. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy products can lower your blood pressure naturally. It’s often hard to know which foods to eat to improve your diet and often it can feel quite overwhelming. Below are some of the following foods you should include in your diet to prevent or reduce high blood pressure:
- Magnesium rich foods such as chicken, meat, legumes, vegetables and whole grains can help blood vessels to relax.
- Potassium-rich foods such as bananas, avocados, oranges, tomatoes and potatoes can help your body to get rid of sodium whilst easing pressure on the blood vessels.
- Dark chocolate or cocoa is rich in flavonoids which are plant compounds that cause the blood vessels to dilate. Small amounts of dark chocolate can actually help your heart!
- Berries are packed with polyphenols which are natural plant compounds that are good for your heart. Not only can eating more berries lower your blood pressure, but it also reduces your overall risk to heart disease.
You might even find it helpful to keep a food diary. Writing down what you eat can really help you to monitor what you eat and how often. That way you can start to plan meals based around the foods that will help to avoid or reduce hypertension.
The main source of high blood pressure is stress. Your health comes first so if there are stressful factors or routines in your life, try to remove them or reduce them as much as possible. After all, not only does stress increase your blood pressure, it will also affect your unborn baby. Take a little ‘me time’ to relax. You might do this by enjoying a candlelit bath each night or even by trying meditation! Meditation and learning deep breathing techniques will help the body and mind to relax, lowering the heart rate and blood pressure. Mastering these techniques will also help during your labour if practised throughout pregnancy.
If you are worried about high blood pressure, you should contact your health provider right away who will be able to monitor you and give you the right care you need. In the meantime, you can follow our guide to encourage a healthier lifestyle for you and your developing baby!