Low Blood Pressure in Pregnancy
Low Blood Pressure in Pregnancy
Blood pressure is the pressure that flowing blood exerts on arterial walls. Low blood pressure, or hypotension, is repeated blood pressure readings below 110/65 mmHg. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters mercury or torr. The first numerical value indicates systolic blood pressure, meaning the blood pressure when the heart contracts. The number after the slash refers to the diastolic pressure, meaning the blood pressure when the heart relaxes and blood is able to flow into its chambers. Low blood pressure does not necessarily burden a patient. If, however, low blood pressure occurs suddenly, it can be linked to serious illnesses. Low blood pressure can occur in pregnancy as well, where it can be a serious condition.
Causes of Low Blood Pressure in Pregnancy
Low blood pressure can be completely natural and occur in young, healthy individuals, primarily women. It can also appear in older individuals as a sign of another underlying disease. Low blood pressure can appear in pregnancy either at its beginning or towards the end. Low blood pressure at the beginning of pregnancy is caused by the new system of blood circulation, where blood is pumped to the placenta as well, nourishing the fetus. The circulatory system of a pregnant mother needs to adapt to the new circumstances and the new circulatory path. This can sometimes lead to lower blood pressure. Low blood pressure at the end of pregnancy usually appears in the supine position (lying down) due to the oppression of the inferior vena cava by the heavy uterus. This condition is often referred to as inferior vena cava syndrome. Compression of this large vein, which carries deoxygenated blood from the lower half of the body, decreases blood return to the heart and thus decreases blood pressure.
Manifestations of Low Blood Pressure in Pregnancy
Especially at the beginning of her pregnancy, the mother may suffer from symptoms linked to low blood pressure. These include weakness, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, the appearance of flashing lights, even fainting. The pregnant woman is at risk of falls, which could damage both her body and the fetus. In the event that the placenta is damaged or detaches from the inner wall of the uterus, miscarriage of the fetus and bleeding for the mother can occur, putting her in a life-threatening situation. During inferior vena cava syndrome, the woman may feel weak, an increased heart rate, nausea, fainting and loss of consciousness.
Consequences of Low Blood Pressure in Pregnancy
Low blood pressure in pregnancy is associated with feeling weak, followed by dizziness and loss of consciousness. This leads to falls, which can result in various serious injuries. After a fall, the fetus may be directly injured or the placenta may detach from the uterine wall, all resulting in fetal death.
Diagnosing Low Blood Pressure in Pregnancy
A diagnosis of low blood pressure in pregnancy is based on regular blood pressure measurements with the help of a sphygmomanometer. A medical history must be taken and emphasis must be made of the characteristics of the symptoms and whether loss of consciousness occurred. It is equally important to determine whether the mother is taking any medications. Blood pressure is taken at every visit to the gynecologist and physician. If the pregnant woman experiences the above mentioned symptoms, blood pressure should be carefully monitored. Low blood pressure in pregnancy is confirmed after repeated blood pressure measurements at rest, by wrapping the cuff of the sphygmomanometer around the upper arm.
Treatment of Low Blood Pressure in Pregnancy
Treatment of low blood pressure in pregnancy is primarily conservative. In the case of low blood pressure at the beginning of pregnancy, compression bandages on the lower limbs, standing up slowly from a sitting or lying position and adequate fluid intake are recommended. Regular small meals are also appropriate. The consumption of coffee and salty foods is not suitable during pregnancy. Low blood pressure appearing at the end of pregnancy is treated by the mother lying on her left side and if possible, giving birth in this position. All conditions related to low blood pressure in pregnancy fix themselves after giving birth. Pharmacological treatment is not very appropriate during pregnancy as a number of medications penetrate the placenta and affect the fetus. However if medication is required, a consultation with a specialist is necessary in order to avoid negative influences of the medications on the fetus.
Preventing Low Blood Pressure in Pregnancy
Prevention means trying to avoid the emergence of diseases or certain conditions. For the prevention of low blood pressure in pregnancy, adequate fluid intake and slow verticalization (standing up from a sitting or lying position) are recommended. In the case of prolonged standing, subtle shuffling of the legs is recommended in order to improve the return of blood to the right half of the heart. Alternating cold and hot water in the shower is also recommended.