Staying healthy while you’re pregnant is as important for you as it is for your baby. By eating right and exercising regularly, you can give yourself the best chance of avoiding conditions that could put you and your baby at risk.

One condition, called preeclampsia, is a pregnancy-induced high blood pressure. Preeclampsia usually occurs late in pregnancy, after week 20, and affects about 10% of all pregnant women around the world1.

Women with chronic hypertension who become pregnant should discuss how to monitor high blood pressure with their doctor early in their pregnancy. For some women with chronic hypertension, pregnancy can further elevate blood pressure. However, even women without chronic hypertension can develop high blood pressure during pregnancy. High blood pressure is serious because it can restrict blood flow and delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the baby.

Possible Signs of Preeclampsia

  • High blood pressure
  • Too much protein in the urine (caused by stress on the kidneys)
  • Edema (or swelling) in the face and hands
  • Sudden rapid weight gain
  • Headaches, blurred vision, and abdominal pain

Who's at Risk
While research has not been able to pinpoint what causes preeclampsia, it has been linked to several factors, including dietary choices and excess weight gain during pregnancy. The risk increases for women who:

  • Are pregnant for the first time
  • Had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy
  • Have a history of high blood pressure
  • Are 35 or older
  • Are carrying more than one baby
  • Have a mother or sister who experienced pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Are significantly overweight
  • Have other medical conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease

Minimize Risks During Your Pregnancy2

  • Enter pregnancy at a healthy weight
  • Follow weight guideline recommendations during pregnancy
  • Take a daily prenatal multivitamin and mineral prescribed by your doctor
  • Eat a balanced diet providing all the nutrients needed including calcium, vitamins C and E, and healthy fats

Regular visits with your doctor will help detect any areas of concern and will ensure you get treatment early on, if needed, to significantly increase your chances of delivering a healthy baby.

1 Accessed April 9, 2014.
2 Expect the Best. Elizabeth Ward, 2009, The American Dietetics Association, J Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, NJ.