Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH), also known as gestational hypertension or pre-eclampsia, is a pregnancy complication that usually starts after the 20th week of pregnancy. It is one of the main causes of concern in pregnant women as this severe form of hypertension may warrant an early delivery. PIH might present as high blood pressure alone or accompanied with other conditions such as protein in the urine, swelling and even convulsions.
In women suffering with PIH the placenta (which gives oxygen and food to your baby) may be prevented from getting enough blood. If the placenta doesn’t get enough blood, your baby gets less oxygen and food, affecting its growth and development in the womb.
Most women who have PIH go on to deliver healthy babies. However, some women can develop complications like eclampsia (PIH with seizures), which is very serious for the mother and baby. Fortunately, PIH is usually detected early in women who get regular prenatal care, and most complications are preventable.
Causes & Risk Factors
PIH is more common during a woman’s first pregnancy, and for women under the age of 20 or over 35. Women whose mothers or sisters had PIH, or who themselves have a history of chronic hypertension or kidney disease are at a higher risk. The risk of PIH is also higher in women in their first pregnancies and those carrying multiple babies, like twins.
When to see the Doctor
Symptoms of PIH include rapid or sudden weight gain, high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and swelling in the hands, feet, and face. If you notice any of the following symptoms, you must contact your doctor right away:
- Severe headaches
- Vomiting blood
- Excessive swelling of the feet and hands, that does not go away and is accompanied by other symptoms
- Reduced amounts of urine or no urine; blood in the urine
- Rapid heartbeat; Dizziness
- Excessive nausea; excessive vomiting
- Change in reflexes
- Ringing or buzzing sound in ears
- Spots before your eyes; double vision or blurred vision; sudden blindness
- Pain in the abdomen (tummy)
Mild PIH can be treated at home, under the monitoring and supervision of your doctor, and requires a quiet restful environment with partial or complete bed rest. Your doctor may also prescribe a diet and fluid intake guidelines, which you must follow closely.
Treatment of more serious PIH depends on the stage of your pregnancy as well as other factors. Your doctor may need you to be hospitalised and closely monitor you and your baby. In some cases, the baby may need to be delivered before the due date.