May is Preeclampsia Awareness Month. Preeclampsia and related conditions, like HELLP syndrome, eclampsia, and gestational hypertension, are dangerous if left untreated in pregnancy and postpartum. In order to treat these conditions, it's critical that you or your care provider notice symptoms. Unfortunately, for these conditions, symptoms can be missed or dismissed as something else. Knowing about and keeping track of your blood pressure before, during, and after pregnancy is one way to monitor for issues. The following information provides basic information about what to know and how to track your blood pressure.
Before learning about how to monitor your blood pressure, it's also critical to learn about the key signs of preeclampsia and related conditions:
- Elevated blood pressure (see below for more information)
- Protein in the urine (detected at a prenatal appointment)
- Changes in vision (blurred, seeing spots)
- Nausea after mid pregnancy
- Swelling in hands and face
- Weight gain of more than 5 pounds in a week
- Difficulty breathing (gasping or panting)
How to Monitor Your Blood Pressure for Preeclampsia
1. Know your typical pre-pregnancy blood pressure. Different people have different typical blood pressure readings. You may be someone who naturally runs low or slightly high. Knowing these numbers before pregnancy (you can call your general practitioner/care provider to get the last couple of readings) will help give you a baseline.
2. Get access to a blood pressure cuff. Either buy or borrow an at-home cuff, or find one at a nearby store or facility to use (though these machines can be less reliable).
3. Learn how to use the machine or cuff you have to take your blood pressure.
4. Learn how to take your blood pressure to ensure consistency and accuracy. The Preeclampsia Foundation has an instructional video and information about what to do before and during taking your blood pressure reading.
5. Know what's considered a high blood pressure reading. Normal blood pressure is less than 140/90. If your numbers are 140-159/90-109, you should call your care provider (OB, midwife, family doctor). If your numbers are 160-110 or higher, get medical care immediately by calling 911 or going to the emergency room.
6. Record your blood pressure readings in between appointments and discuss them with your care provider.
For more information about all things preeclampsia, visit the Preeclampsia Foundation website.
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