Gestational hypertension, also known as high blood pressure during pregnancy, affects approximately 1 in every 12-17 pregnancies. Gestational hypertension can put the pregnant person and baby at risk for complications during pregnancy and even during labor or after birth. Some complications include: placental abruption, intrauterine growth restriction, preterm labor and stillbirth. If left untreated, severe high blood pressure during pregnancy may cause seizures (eclampsia) and even death of the mother and baby. With continued research, we now know that high blood pressure is preventable and treatable, even in the prenatal population.

Risk Factors

The cause of high blood pressure during pregnancy may be unknown, however there are a number of conditions that may increase the risk of developing gestational hypertension. Those conditions include: high blood pressure pre-pregnancy, kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure during a previous pregnancy, younger than 20 or older than 40 years of age, multiples, or African-American race.


A higher than normal blood pressure reading during pregnancy is usually the first indication of a potential diagnosis. Other symptoms may include: sudden weight gain, swelling (edema), visual changes, nausea, vomiting, intense headache or right-sided upper abdominal pain. If you begin experiencing any of these symptoms, please discuss them with your OB provider immediately.


Treatment can be different for every patient. Your OB provider will take into consideration your pregnancy, overall health, medical history, extent of the disease, as well as your tolerance for certain medications. The goal of treatment is to prevent the condition from worsening as a means to prevent unnecessary complications. Your OB provider will continue to assess you at each appointment to ensure progression is not occuring. Don’t forget that regular exercise and a healthy diet are also appropriate treatment methods in most cases.
Many pregnant patients are also told to reduce their salt intake if diagnosed with high blood pressure. This is actually outdated information. Salt is vital to MANY functions in your body and is even more important in pregnancy. Salt often does not have an impact on blood pressure, as only about 25% of the population is salt-sensitive. Pregnancy related high blood pressure seems to be non-responsive to salt restriction. Consuming more salt may actually improve your blood pressure! Fructose can also lead to people being more salt sensitive, so think about decreasing your sugar intake before you restrict the amount of salt in your diet. I love to recommend LMNT salt packets to my patients to help with salt intake. We also sell this product in the office!
Lastly, certain foods and nutrients can help regular blood pressure. Such as protein, choline and fruits and vegetables that are high in potassium and antioxidants.


Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly before and during pregnancy will help aid in preventing pregnancy complications, such as gestation hypertension. Other things that may help, include:
  • Do not excessively restrict salt intake.
  • Drink enough water. Specifically 1/2 your bodyweight in ounces daily.
  • Limit added sugars, especially fructose.
  • Eat a low carbohydrate diet.
  • Avoid vegetables oils and trans fats.
  • Eat more omega-3 fats.
  • Consume adequate amounts of protein.
  • Consume enough choline, either through whole foods or your prenatal vitamin.
  • Eat more fresh produce.
  • Consider supplementing with magnesium, calcium and vitamin D.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Manage your stress and anxiety with yoga and/or meditation.
Please always be sure to discuss any symptoms with your OB provider as soon as possible. Also, be sure to discuss any of the above listed preventative options with your provider.