Catching Pre-Eclampsia Earlier

Pregnant women should have blood pressure evaluated

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Those last weeks of pregnancy are the most exciting and uncomfortable time. This is when conditions such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia most likely occur.

According to new research from the United Kingdom, defining pre-eclampsia as the extreme end of elevated blood pressure (BP) in pregnancy, more at risk women will be identified.

"Prenatal checkups during pregnancy are essential for a mother's health."

Lead author Corrie Macdonald-Wallis, Ph.D.candidate from the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol explains that a woman whose BP steadily rises throughout her pregnancy but remains below the standards of diagnosis for pre-eclampsia may have the same health risks as a woman whose BP rises just a bit and is diagnosed with pre-eclampsia.

Scott Nelson, Ph.D., the Muirhead Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Glasgow, comments this is a potentially dangerous condition for babies and their mothers. This study suggests that the designation of pre-eclampsia is currently too limited and only includes those on the dramatic end of responses to pregnancy.

Considering the percentage change of the mother's BP in addition to the actual blood pressure reading may be an effective way to identify more women earlier at risk for developing pre-eclampsia.

The study followed almost 12,000 women and recorded their blood pressure at two months and the percentage change over the course of pregnancy. None of the women developed pre-eclampsia.

Obese women, women over 35 and first pregnancies had higher BP in the first trimester and a greater percentage increase in BP in their third trimester than women with a normal weight, under the age of 30 and had prior pregnancies.

Additionally, those carrying twins had similar blood pressure in the first trimester to the women carrying only one child, but their BP was more likely to rise dramatically in the third trimester. Smokers during their pregnancy had lower BP in their first through third trimester than those who did not smoke.

The study was published in the Journal of Hypertension.

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Review Date: 
August 2, 2011
Last Updated:
August 4, 2011