Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

High blood pressure in pregnancy

5-minute read

High blood pressure in pregnancy is a common medical problem that usually disappears once the baby is born. In some cases, it can signal a serious condition called pre-eclampsia.

Your blood pressure is a measure of how strongly your blood pushes against the walls of the blood vessels. It’s normally recorded in 2 numbers: the top one (systolic) is the pressure when the heart is pumping, and the bottom one (diastolic) is the pressure in between each beat.

When you are pregnant, you are considered to have high blood pressure when the top number is 140 or more or the bottom number is 90 or more (described as “140 over 90”). High blood pressure is sometimes called hypertension.

Seek medical attention urgently if you have high blood pressure in pregnancy along with:

  • a severe headache
  • blurred vision
  • sudden swelling of the face, hands and feet
  • a pain in your upper abdomen (just below the ribs)

Different types of high blood pressure in pregnancy

There are 3 types of high blood pressure during pregnancy:

  • Chronic hypertension: This is when you already had high blood pressure before you fell pregnant – for example if you already had a medical condition such as kidney disease. Chronic hypertension also refers to when your high blood pressure is diagnosed in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Some women with chronic hypertension may develop pre-eclampsia when they are pregnant.
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension: This is high blood pressure that is diagnosed after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It is also called ‘gestational hypertension’.
  • Pre-eclampsia: Pre-eclampsia is a serious condition that only occurs in pregnant women. As well as high blood pressure, it can also affect the kidneys, liver, blood and brain.

What causes high blood pressure during pregnancy?

Any woman can develop high blood pressure during their pregnancy, but you are at increased risk if:

  • you have had pre-eclampsia before
  • close relatives have had pre-eclampsia
  • you have a medical condition such as kidney disease, diabetes or chronic hypertension
  • you are older than 40
  • you are obese
  • you are carrying twins or more

Can high blood pressure affect the baby?

High blood pressure in pregnancy can prevent blood from flowing to the placenta. Because the baby doesn’t get enough nutrients or oxygen, they are at higher risk of being low birth weight or being born prematurely.

For this reason, it’s very important that high blood pressure is picked up early and treated.

What are the effects of high blood pressure on the mother?

Untreated high blood pressure during pregnancy increases the risk of placental abruption, preterm labour, gestational diabetes or stillbirth.

Women who experience high blood pressure in pregnancy are more likely to have problems with high blood pressure and heart disease in later life.

Treatments for high blood pressure

Your doctor or midwife will check your blood pressure regularly. If you have high blood pressure, it is important to:

If high blood pressure is caused by a medical condition such as kidney disease, it’s important to talk to your doctor about what medications are safe to take during pregnancy.

Pre-eclampsia can be managed with medication and close monitoring of both you and the baby. However, it can become worse very quickly. If this happens, you may need to go to hospital or have the baby delivered early.

How high blood pressure impacts labour and birth

If you have high blood pressure, both you and your baby will be closely monitored during the pregnancy. During labour, the baby’s heart will be continuously monitored and you may have an intravenous drip to give you fluid and medication. If your condition seems to be worsening during labour, you may need an emergency caesarean.

If you have pre-eclampsia, it will normally be recommended that you have the baby in a large maternity hospital which can provide expert care for both mother and baby. It may mean the baby is born early or is smaller than expected.

Does blood pressure remain high after the birth?

High blood pressure in pregnancy usually disappears once the baby is born. However, there may still be some complications during the first few days after the birth and you will need to be monitored carefully for several weeks.

Women who had high blood pressure due to another condition (chronic hypertension) will need to see their doctor to make sure their blood pressure returns to safe levels.

Are there any implications for future pregnancies?

Having high blood pressure in pregnancy doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop high blood pressure in future pregnancies. However, your risk is increased, especially if you have a medical condition like hypertension, kidney disease, diabetes or lupus.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: January 2020

Back To Top

Need more information?

RANZCOG - Pre-eclampsia and High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy

Pre-eclampsia is a serious condition that only occurs in pregnant women. It begins after 20 weeks gestation and usually takes the form of high blood pressure and abnormal kidney function, but can also involve other organs, such as the liver, blood and brain.

Read more on RANZCOG - Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website

Complications during pregnancy

Some women will experience complications such as bleeding, itching high blood pressure or severe vomiting during pregnancy that will require treatment.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Preventing chronic illness in you and your baby

Chronic illness can complicate a pregnancy and while you may not be able to prevent a chronic illness, leading a healthy lifestyle will help reduce the risk, both to you and your baby.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Multiple pregnancy (triplets or more)

Learning you're pregnant with triplets or more can be a shock, but overall, most parents find having multiple babies to be a positive experience.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Placental abruption - Better Health Channel

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Pregnant with twins

If you're pregnant with twins, a healthy lifestyle and diet will help you cope with your pregnancy and give your babies the best start in life.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website


Pregnancy Women with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can have a healthy baby, but there are extra risks during pregnancy

Read more on Diabetes Australia website

5 weeks pregnant: Doctor appointments

Week 5 of pregnancy is the best time to have a pregnancy test. You can use a home pregnancy test but it’s still important to visit your doctor so that they can estimate your pregnancy due date. This may involve an early pregnancy ultrasound. You should also receive pregnancy health advice and discuss pregnancy folate supplements in the fifth week of pregnancy if you have not already done so. It’s also a good time to make sure you’re eating all the right pregnancy foods and start your pregnancy exercise routine.

Read more on Parenthub website

Fraternal twins & identical twins | Raising Children Network

Whether you’re having fraternal twins or identical twins, it’s good to find out during pregnancy. Get the facts you need about different types of twins.

Read more on website

Toxaemia of pregnancy (pre-eclampsia) -

Pre-eclampsia, also known as pre-eclamptic toxaemia, or just toxaemia, occurs in pregnancy, causing problems for the baby and mother.

Read more on myDr website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.