Pre-eclampsia: how to monitor your blood pressure

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Pre-eclampsia is a complication arising in around 6% of all pregnancies. Symptoms usually present themselves during the second half of the pregnancy, after the 20-week mark. Left untreated, pre-eclampsia can develop into a highly dangerous condition for mother and unborn baby, so it is important to be familiar with the symptoms.

High blood pressure is the most common and usually the first symptom to develop. High blood pressure is normally recorded as blood pressure of 140/90 or more, measured on two different occasions at least four hours apart. It is important that expectant mothers keep all of their healthcare appointments and take steps to monitor their blood pressure in order to maximise the chances of catching pre-eclampsia early, leading to more successful treatment. Here are some tips on monitoring your blood pressure.

Know your blood pressure

You should know what your “normal” blood pressure is prior to your pregnancy; this makes it easier to notice any change during the course of the pregnancy. Ensure your blood pressure is taken during every prenatal appointment and keep a log so you can ensure your blood pressure is remaining stable. If you notice any significant changes in your blood pressure, then notify your healthcare provider immediately.

Take your own blood pressure

Outside of medical appointments, you can purchase a blood pressure monitor from most pharmacies, allowing you to monitor your own blood pressure regularly. These are not as reliable as medical-grade equipment but can be an early warning sign of developing pre-eclampsia between medical check-ups.

Sit down when taking your blood pressure

You should always take your own blood pressure in the sitting position. The blood pressure monitor should be positioned on your left arm, at the level of the heart. Ensure you always record your blood pressure using this method, to ensure the accuracy of your results.

Pre-eclampsia is a fairly common condition for pregnant women, and is nearly always treatable, especially if caught early. Whilst high blood pressure is the most common symptom, others can include headaches, blurred vision, nausea, abdominal pain and excess protein in your urine, whilst sometimes there are no symptoms at all. Being aware of the condition, monitoring your blood pressure and ensuring you attend regular medical check-ups are the best defence against pre-eclampsia.

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