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High blood pressure in pregnancy and pre-eclampsia

There are different types of high blood pressure that might affect you when you are pregnant.

Some types are present prior to becoming pregnant. Other types develop during the pregnancy and may be caused by the pregnancy.

Chronic hypertension (essential hypertension)

Pregnant women with chronic hypertension will have had high blood pressure before pregnancy. Chronic hypertension is sometimes called essential hypertension.

It is likely you had high blood pressure before the pregnancy if it is found during the first 20 weeks.

Not all high blood pressure medications are suitable to take during pregnancy

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have high blood pressure and:

  • are planning a pregnancy
  • or think you may be pregnant

If you had high blood pressure before pregnancy, you may be at higher risk of developing pre-eclampsia. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of pre-eclampsia.

Pregnancy-induced hypertension (gestational hypertension)

This is when your blood pressure rises during the pregnancy. This often happens during the third trimester, usually after 32 weeks. Pregnancy-induced hypertension is also called gestational hypertension.

You may be at risk of pre-eclampsia if diagnosed with pregnancy-induced hypertension. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of pre-eclampsia.


This is a condition that is related to your pregnancy. Your blood pressure rises and you also have protein in your urine (wee). Pre-eclampsia usually develops after 20 weeks.

Between 2 and 5 in 100 women will be diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. Most women with pre-eclampsia go on to have healthy babies. If untreated, pre-eclampsia can be dangerous and even fatal for mothers and for babies. It can cause mothers to have seizures.

If you had pre-eclampsia in a previous pregnancy, your obstetrician may prescribe a low dose of aspirin to take after the first trimester.

page last reviewed: 17/09/2018
next review due: 17/09/2021