My doctor tells me I’ve got hypertension, which means that my blood pressure is on the high side -- I range from about 120/80 all the way to 145/90 when I’m stressed. I’m weirdly offended by this, and even more so that she prescribed meds. I sometimes take them, probably because I know that my very mild hypertension poses no real threat to me, and I feel fine.
I’m also not pregnant.
If you are pregnant and hypertensive, the whole scene changes. You can’t afford to be as stupid as I am about treating it.
Preggos can come by hypertension two ways: either you have chronic hypertension (like me) that’s around long before you get pregnant, or you have gestational hypertension, which comes on as a result of being pregnant.
Hypertension is dangerous; it can quickly turn into preeclampsia, which puts both the mother and the baby in danger. It also puts you at risk for a number of other complications, including preterm birth, still birth, and placental abruption. And while about 5 percent of women start their pregnancies with high blood pressure, up to 15 percent develop it during pregnancy, which makes it pretty common.
In August, Britain’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence released a report recommending that women take 75mg of aspirin a day -- just barely less than the amount in a baby aspirin, which measures 81mg. That’s about a quarter the dose of one normal aspirin pill that you might take for a headache. They recommend that women take the aspirin starting at 12 weeks and continue until birth.
Baby aspirin has long been recommended for those at risk for a heart attack because of its blood-thinning properties -- and it’s those properties that make it potentially helpful to hypertensive moms-to-be, since thinner blood means less arterial pressure.
Researchers in Cleveland, Ohio, have also been looking at the benefits of aspirin and discovered that daily doses of baby aspirin reduced a pregnant woman’s chances of developing hypertension by up to 65 percent. They noted that there were no adverse effects of aspirin therapy, as long as the dose was low -- the higher dose of an adult aspirin has the potential to trigger problems, such as hemorrhaging.
Bottom line: Don’t be me. If you have high blood pressure before pregnancy, get it treated. If you develop it, get it treated. And ask your doctor about taking baby aspirin -- it might be a good way to reduce your risks without having to take any serious drugs.
Do you have hypertension?
Image via Sean McGrath/Flickr