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Your High Blood Pressure Meds May Have to Wait

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

The importance of being healthy before going into a pregnancy cannot be stressed enough.  While it’s true, many women find out they’re pregnant and immediately alter their lifestyles to something healthier, this is not always immediately possible.  In fact, there are some ailments that can’t be medically treated once you get pregnant because of the dangers to the baby.  High blood pressure, in some cases, is one of these issues.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors studied more than 29,000 infants in Tennessee who were born within the years of 1985-2000.  209 of those babies were exposed to ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors during the first trimester and 202 more were exposed to other medications also prescribed for hypertension.  Upon birth, they found that the infants exposed to ACE inhibitors were more likely to develop congenital defects.  These included malformations in their cardiovascular systems and central nervous systems, as well as kidney abnormalities.  These findings have led them to believe that exposure to ACE inhibitors during the first trimester is not safe for developing babies and should be avoided.  Luckily, exposure to antihypertensive medications not classified as ACE inhibitors did not seem to increase the risk of defects.

This is why it’s so important to get medical issues like high blood pressure under control before deciding to get pregnant.   Preconceptionally, there are other things you can try besides medication. Try to exercise, lose that extra weight around your waistline and eat a healthy diet.  In this diet, you should restrict your intake of sodium, if at all possible.  However, if you find yourself pregnant and still struggling with hypertension, your obstetrician or perinatologist will prescribe antihypertensive medications that are safe for pregnancy.  Continued high blood pressure during pregnancy is not good for you or the baby.  You may suffer a stroke or develop kidney compromise and the baby may be born very small or not survive the pregnancy.

So, although high blood pressure may have an adverse effect on your pregnancy, and some medications may be harmful to the health of your fetus, taking the right medication to control it can make all the difference in the world.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.