It’s easy to think that a pregnant mother should only relax during those exciting 9 months. There are so many changes happening during pregnancy; a healthy growing baby, a new and fuller figure to dress and navigate and the changes to your diet (increase the fiber!) and exercise (decrease the full-body impact sports!) can leave you feeling not much like your “old self”.
Pregnancy is not the time to just give up and give in; to the couch for endless television, to the bag of chips during late night cravings. Even women with health problems like high blood pressure don’t have to sit in the side lines for the duration. High blood pressure, diagnosed with a BP of greater than 140/90 (systolic/diastolic) has significant draw backs that include damage to your heart, kidneys and blood vessels and an increased stroke risk for the mother-to-be. Hypertension during pregnancy can actually be treated without medication, which is great, because we all know what the mother ingests; alcohol or medications for example, so will the baby.
Hypertension during pregnancy is caused from a number of reasons; being overweight before pregnancy, smoking during pregnancy, too much salt in the diet, too much alcohol in the diet, increased maternal age and genetics.
Managing your high blood pressure during pregnancy does not have to include medications; Lopressor, a beta-blocker or Caridzem, a calcium channel blocker. These medications can be used to treat hypertension but the side effects are seriously risky to the baby; poor fetal growth, preterm labor or infant seizures. These are all side effects a mother-to-be is looking to avoid.
Before your pregnancy high blood pressure turns into preeclamspsia consider simplifying your diet; adding more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and eating less processed foods like take-out or boxed meals and most importantly maintaining your physical activity. Research finds that bed-rest for hypertensive pregnancies and postnatal care is actually not recommended. According to the article “Management of hypertension in pregnant and postpartum women” it found that doctors “do not advise bedrest for most pregnant women with hypertension, particularly those with stable chronic hypertension. Restricted activity is disruptive for most women and can be associated with deconditioning, bone loss, and an increased risk of thromboembolic events” .
The more you sit during pregnancy the more likely you are to aggravate your high blood pressure with blood clots and risk of stroke. Simple walking exercises or other moderate exercises like using the elliptical or incline walking on the treadmill everyday combined with stretching and a healthy diet were recommended to pregnant woman dealing with high blood pressure. Bed-rest did not significantly reduce high blood pressure in the expectant mother and did not reduce the need for premature delivery of the infant.
Examples of Moderate Exercise
Light Snow Shoveling
Actively Playing with your Children
Do not let your pregnancy, or your high blood pressure, scare you into a sedentary lifestyle. The best way to treat your body is with nutritious foods and exercise everyday; even when you’re pregnant! Discuss with your doctor healthy safe options for exercise to reduce your high blood pressure while pregnant. It’s a healthy habit you’ll be happy you started and your children will admire.
Phyllis August, MD, MPH, Management of hypertension in pregnant and postpartum women www.uptodate.com