High blood pressure treatments are safe for pregnant women, study finds

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Experts say treating blood pressure during pregnancy benefits women’s long-term heart health

A new study conducted by researchers from the American Heart Association explored the safety of blood pressure treatments for pregnant women. According to their findings, these treatments not only help maintain healthy blood pressure levels, but they can also improve pregnancy and delivery outcomes.

“For decades, the benefits of blood pressure treatment for pregnant women were unclear,” said researcher Dr. Vesna D. Garovic. “And there were concerns about fetal well-being from exposure to antihypertensive medications. 

“Through our comprehensive review of the existing literature, it is reassuring to see emerging evidence that treating high blood pressure during pregnancy is safe and effective and may be beneficial at lower thresholds than previously thought. Now, we have the current statement focused on hypertension during pregnancy to help inform optimal treatment and future research.” 

Keeping mothers and babies healthy

The researchers analyzed several earlier studies that evaluated the safety of different blood pressure treatments for pregnant women. Previous findings suggested that some treatments could compromise fetuses’ health, but the researchers noted that addressing hypertension is also important for mothers’ long-term health.

Ultimately, their work showed that blood pressure treatments – such as prescription medications and lifestyle habits like consistent exercise and healthy diets – are important for the health of mothers beyond their pregnancies. The team found that engaging in these habits both before and during pregnancy is key to keeping blood pressure in a healthy range. Pregnant women who exercised were 30% less likely to develop high blood pressure and 40% less likely to develop preeclampsia. 

Left untreated, high blood pressure can increase the likelihood of health risks for both mothers and infants, including low infant birth weight and preterm delivery. The researchers said when women have high blood pressure at the time of delivery, they have a higher risk of heart health complications down the road.

Moving forward, the researchers hope more work is done to better understand women’s heart health before, during, and after pregnancy. 

“Future clinical trials are needed to address questions about when to begin treatment for high blood pressure during pregnancy,” said Dr. Garovic. “Also, close collaboration between the American Heart Association and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists will be instrumental in optimizing diagnosis and treatment of hypertension during pregnancy and in improving immediate and long-term outcomes for many women who develop hypertension during pregnancy.” 

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