PIH Preeclampsia—What's Pregnancy Induced Hypertension?

How Pregnancy Induced Hypertension Affects Mom and Baby

Checking a patient’s blood pressure.
Checking a patient’s blood pressure. Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Pregnancy induced hypertension is also known as PIH or preeclampsia, and can be very serious if not caught early in the disease. There is a difference between simple hypertension and preeclampsia. Hypertension either comes on during the pregnancy or is something the woman has before becoming pregnant. After the pregnancy, gestational hypertension will go away completely, or go back to pre-pregnancy levels.

In most cases, preeclampsia develops in the second half of pregnancy, after 20 weeks. In addition to high blood pressure, women with PIH have severe swelling that doesn’t go away and protein that leaks into their urine (signaling kidney dysfunction).

Dangers of PIH to Mom and Baby

Chronic high blood pressure that doesn’t develop into preeclampsia can prevent sufficient blood flow through the placenta to the baby. This keeps the baby from getting enough oxygen and nutrients. If left untreated, PIH can progress to the severe form of the syndrome, eclampsia, which can cause the following symptoms:

  • Seizures
  • Pregnancy loss (miscarriage)
  • Vision impairment and persistent headaches
  • Neurological damage to the fetus
  • Kidney failure or liver and blood clotting problems in the mother
  • In serious cases, eclampsia can lead to maternal coma and both maternal and fetal death can result.

Diagnosing Preeclampsia

Although most cases of preeclampsia or PIH are mild and cause no trouble, the condition can get worse and be serious for the health of both mother and baby.

You may not notice any signs of pregnancy induced hypertension or preeclampsia until the doctor diagnoses your high blood pressure. You might notice severe swelling that doesn’t ever decrease and/or rapid weight gain (more then a few pounds each day).

The first few symptoms that a pregnant women might have when experiencing PIH, are:

  • High blood pressure, known as hypertension.
  • Proteinuria, which is protein in the urine.

Every time you visit your doctor, she will check your blood pressure and take a urine sample to look for protein in the urine to make sure that you are not developing this serious condition.

Symptoms that preeclampsia is developing into eclampsia include severe headache, visual changes and seizures. If you notice any of these symptoms, please call your doctor immediately. If you have a severe headache, vision changes or experience a seizure, you should go to the emergency room immediately as these could signal a medical emergency.

Treatment for Pregnancy Induced Hypertension

Treatment for preeclampsia depends on how far along you are in the pregnancy. If the baby is full term or close to it, your doctor will likely want to induce your labor or schedule a c-section.

If you are still several weeks or months from your due date, treatment involves bed rest, frequent monitoring and taking medication, a type of magnesium, which should hopefully lower your blood pressure.

Unfortunately, this magnesium is given through the IV while you are in the hospital. This may require an extended stay in the hospital, especially if you are many weeks from delivery. If it doesn’t work, the only known cure is to deliver the baby. The goal is to get the baby as far along in the pregnancy as possible so that the lungs have a chance to develop.

Source:

Gestational hypertension: Pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH). Accessed on Feb 27, 2016.

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