Causes of High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy

Dr. Barra O' Briain, MD, discusses causes of high blood pressure in pregnancy.

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Dr. Barra O' Briain, MD, discusses causes of high blood pressure in pregnancy.
Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Barra O'Briain, MD

Duration: 1 minute, 59 seconds

The underlying mechanism where women develop this pregnancy induced hypertension, that one that begins after 20 weeks is not well understood, and the actual blood pressure readings the tip of the iceberg.

This high blood pressure can û situation, or we call it gestational hypertension, often involves other systems. Women tend to retain a lot of water. It affects the kidneys' ability to mobilize water.
It also causes û with this retention of water the liver gets involved, and so there's some liver changes that occur. It also affects the nervous system where if uncontrolled and progressive, and very aggressive could cause seizures in women.

So this is ultimately why healthcare providers are quite concerned, and keep a very close lookout, although it's rare event for this blood pressure evolution during pregnancy. Gestational hypertension or hypertension in general in pregnancy is a serious concern, but it's rare. Hypertension of any kind occurs in about 7 percent of pregnancies.

The gestational hypertension that evolves into a more significant condition is rare still, usually around 3 to 4 percent of all pregnancies. The reason why we have more frequent prenatal visits in the third trimester is to offer us the opportunity to pick this up should it arise.

It's not something that I think women should go into pregnancy worrying about, but it is one of the things that we look for very closely during the third trimester. If women have questions or want more information about hypertension and pregnancy, the person to go to is their healthcare provider that's taking care of them during this time.

Presenter: Dr. Barra O'Briain, Family Doctor, Vancouver, BC

Local Practitioners: Family Doctor

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.