High blood pressure in pregnant women nearly doubled in 10 years, says American Heart Association

Doctors warn of increased risk for cardiovascular disease and hypertension in pregnant women
Published: May. 12, 2021 at 11:37 AM EDT|Updated: May. 13, 2021 at 3:08 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Doctors with the American Heart Association have warned of increased risk for cardiovascular disease and hypertension, in particular, in pregnant women.

Dr. Erin Black, an obstetrician-gynecologist with Women’s Care Group at University of Tennessee Medical Center said there are 80,000 cases of pregnant women with hypertension within the last year, which is a two fold increase from ten years ago.

“Pregnancy is a big stress on the cardiovascular system. We have fluid shifts, blood pressure changes, and with the aging population, sometimes we don’t tolerate that as well as a younger population. So, in particular, women over 30 and older have an increased risk of gestational hypertensive disorders and postpartum complications from high blood pressure disease,” said Dr. Black. “Making sure that we start here before even pregnant, establishing with a physician knowing your numbers, your risk factors and your stats, as well as being aware of signs and symptoms of worsening, cardiovascular disease, and following up closely in this part of time period,” she also said.

She said the statistics are even worse in rural areas. She said women living in rural areas continue to be approximately 20% more likely to have high blood pressure before pregnancy than women living in urban communities.

“Being aware of symptoms that could signal worse than hypertensive disorders, a persistent headache visual changes, or an upper quadrant pain, those are all things coupled with an elevated blood pressure reading that would warrant an emergent workup or consultation with your doctor, or maybe even a team of specialists OB-GYN anesthesiologists, as well as cardiologists, to make sure that we’re optimizing mom’s cardiovascular health during pregnancy,” she said.

Another recent study from the American Heart Association has shown that pregnancy-related heart attacks, especially in the period after childbirth, are on the rise in women who are age 30 or older.

“Pregnancy can place a lot of stress on the body, especially your heart. This increase in heart attacks goes hand in hand with the increases in maternal age, as well as the rise in obesity,” said Dr. Black. “Additionally, in the study, 51 percent of the women who had heart attacks experienced them postpartum. This is significant as it showcases the importance of postnatal care. People often forget about the postpartum period but that’s a period of high risk because of changes in the maternal cardiovascular system. Most patients have left the hospital by the time symptoms begin. With a new baby at home, the last place mothers want to be is back in the hospital.”

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