While you are pregnant

If you are pregnant and are at risk of developing any type of high blood pressure during your pregnancy you should follow the same advice on rest, exercise and work during pregnancy as for other pregnant women. This advice is explained in NICE's information for the public on routine antenatal care for healthy pregnant women (see Other NICE guidance).

If you are admitted to hospital you should not be told to stay in bed in order to treat your high blood pressure, because bed rest does not help to lower blood pressure.

Women with gestational high blood pressure

If you develop gestational high blood pressure you should be offered a hospital appointment to check your blood pressure and test your urine for proteinuria.

Depending on how high your blood pressure is, you may also be offered blood tests. If your high blood pressure is severe your doctor should offer to admit you to hospital for tests and treatment.

The treatment you are offered will take into consideration any possible side effects for you and your baby.

Tell your doctor or midwife straight away if you have any symptoms of pre-eclampsia and you are more than 20 weeks pregnant.

Symptoms of pre-eclampsia

  • Severe headache

  • Problems with your eyesight, such as blurring or flashing before your eyes

  • Severe pain just below your ribs

  • Vomiting

  • Sudden swelling of your face, hands or feet.

Women with pre-eclampsia

If you develop pre-eclampsia your doctor should offer to admit you to hospital for tests and treatment. While you are in hospital your blood pressure should be measured at least four times a day, depending on how high it is. You may be offered a drug to help lower your blood pressure. You should also have regular blood tests and your baby's heart rate should be monitored.

Your doctor may advise you to have your baby early by having your labour induced (starting labour artificially) or by caesarean section. You can find more information about these in NICE's information for the public on induction of labour and caesarean section (see Other NICE guidance).

If your pre-eclampsia becomes worse you may need to be admitted to critical care (an intensive care or high dependency unit), where you should be offered treatment with drugs to lower your blood pressure. Your baby's heart rate should also be monitored.

Whether you have your baby by caesarean section or by having labour induced will depend on what is best for you and your baby and, if possible, your own preference.

In more serious cases, some women admitted to critical care because of pre-eclampsia have one or more convulsions or seizures before or just after the baby's birth. These are called eclamptic fits. If you have an eclamptic fit, or if your baby is expected to be born within the next 24 hours, you may be given a drug to prevent or stop seizures.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • How will I know if my high blood pressure has become severe?

  • If I think I have severe high blood pressure, who should I contact and when should I contact them?

  • How long will I have to take drugs to lower my blood pressure?

  • Will the drugs affect my baby?

  • Will I have to have induction of labour or a caesarean section?

  • Why do I need to stay in hospital when I feel fine?

  • Information Standard