High blood pressure during pregnancy, also known as preeclampsia or gestational hypertension, is a condition that can develop at any time during pregnancy.
What are the symptoms?
Pregnant women who have preeclampsia may experience the following
- Swelling of hands and feet
- Abdominal pain
Is this harmful?
- For unborn babies, preeclampsia can be harmful because it may cause the baby to grow more slowly and can cause preterm (early) birth
- For pregnant moms, preeclampsia can lead to seizures, decrease in organ function, and in some cases, death
Who is at risk?
- Preeclampsia affects 1 out of every 20 pregnancies.
- At BMC, 3 out of 10 women have high blood pressure in pregnancy.
Women at high risk of developing preeclampsia include
- History of high blood pressure (chronic or in pregnancy)
- History of diabetes
- Women pregnant with twins or triplets
- History of kidney problems
- Having an autoimmune disease
Moderate risk factors for developing preeclampsia include
- First pregnancy
- High body fat (BMI>30)
- Family history of preeclampsia
- Women who are African American/Black
- Women are 35 or older
- Previously had a baby with low birth weight
- It’s been more than 10 years since having a previous baby
How can at-risk patients prevent complications from preeclampsia?
Prenatal aspirin (aka low-dose baby, or 81mg aspirin) which is generally considered a medication that should be avoided during pregnancy, is actually recommended for women whose pregnancies are at a moderate or high-risk of developing preeclampsia. When that is the case, taking aspirin will not harm mom or her unborn baby.
Benefits of prenatal aspirin
- Safe for mom and baby
- Works within the placenta
- Lowers risk of premature birth
- Lowers risk of baby being low birthweight
Patients should speak with their provider to see if they may be a good candidate for prenatal aspirin.
The Prenatal Aspirin Project at Boston Medical Center is a Quality Improvement initiative that aims to increase awareness and education of aspirin during pregnancy. Our 2018 goals include increasing prescription rates for all at-risk women to 90%, while engaging with pharmacists, patients, and community stakeholders to increase acceptance of prenatal aspirin.
Learn more and access useful at www.prenatalaspirin.com.