Riding the bump with BP


LAST WEEK, my maid grumbled to me about how her niece had turned into an enormous ball. The niece was in her eighth month of pregnancy and unable to move as her limbs were swollen. A quick enquiry revealed that her last blood pressure reading had been 150/110 (>140/90 is usually diagnosed as high blood pressure during pregnancy). Sensing trouble, I asked my maid to rush her niece to hospital. The baby couldn’t be saved.

Rising blood pressure during pregnancy is a serious matter. Pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH) can lead to early detachment of placenta, seizures in the mother (causing even death) and affect the growth and life of the foetus.

Luckily, PIH can be managed with close monitoring. A couple of years ago, a close friend recorded a reading of 170/110 in her 36th week. Decreased foetal activity forced the doctor attending to her to deliver the baby through an emergency C-section. My friend recounts to this day what a close shave it had been. Now second time pregnant, she is on pills for maintaining BP levels and blood supply to the growing baby.

One of the early symptoms of rising BP is oedema—accumulation of fluid around wrists, calves and ankles. Unfortunately, in the wake of many things that women juggle during a single day (office/house/family), swollen limbs might not be that apparent to her or her family.

Additionally, oedema along with blurring of vision, inability to sleep, pain below ribs and nausea are often seen as routine symptoms during the fag end of pregnancy. Any of these should be reported to the doctor.

An old-fashioned way to keep track of rise in blood pressure is by wearing bangles. The moment the bangles feel tighter and begin to bite the skin of the wrist, a woman should know that her limbs are beginning to swell. A visit to the doctor should be made to evaluate the blood pressure. If high, your doctor is likely to check for protein in your urine.

While sometimes pills are the only solution for PIH, others include making lifestyle changes—yoga, exercise—and diet choices—going low on salt and high on greens, beets, nuts and seeds.


* Bangles can also serve as an auditory input to the foetus.

* Chronic hypertension: High blood pressure detected before 20 weeks of gestation. This implies that high BP was existing prior to pregnancy.

Next issue: Ultrasounds—are too many, too much?