Hypertension in pregnancy is defined as an average diastolic blood pressure of ≥90 mmHg, based on at least 2 measurements, ≥4 hours apart or systolic blood pressure of ≥140 mmHg taken at least 6 hours apart.
Diagnosis of severe hypertension is made when blood pressure is ≥160/110 mmHg.
Measurement should be repeated after 15 minutes for confirmation.



  • Always presents potential danger to the mother and baby; therefore, prevention relies on identifying high-risk women
    • Close clinical and lab monitoring aimed at early recognition and institution of monitoring or delivery when indicated


Clinical Blood Pressure (BP) Measurement
  • Patient should be seated quietly for at least 5 minutes in a chair with feet on the floor and arm supported at heart level prior to measurement of BP
  • Appropriately-sized cuff should be placed at heart level of the patient and should not be placed over any clothing
  • Use the appearance of phase I Korotkoff’s sounds for systolic blood pressure (SBP) and the disappearance of phase V for diastolic blood pressure (DBP)
  • Differences of BP between 2 arms should be noted, and the arm with consistently higher measurement should be used for all subsequent BP readings
Confirmation of Elevated BP
  • Diagnosis of hypertension is based on office or in-hospital BP measurements
  • Hypertension in pregnancy is defined as an average DBP of ≥90 mmHg, based on at least 2 measurements, ≥4 hours apart or SBP ≥140 mmHg taken at least 6 hours apart
  • Diagnosis of severe hypertension is made when BP is ≥160/110 mmHg
    • Measurement should be repeated after 15 minutes for confirmation
Findings that Support the Diagnosis of Severe Preeclampsia
One or more of the following:
  • SBP ≥160 mmHg and/or DBP ≥110 mmHg on 2 occasions at least 4 hours apart during bed rest
  • Platelet <100,000 cells/mm3 or microangiopathic hemolytic anemia (with increased lactic acid dehydrogenase)
  • Elevated liver enzymes [aspartate aminotransferase (AST) or alanine aminotransferase (ALT)]
  • Persistent headache or other cerebral or visual disturbances
  • Persistent epigastric or right upper quadrant pain
  • Pulmonary edema and/or congestive heart failure
  • Severe proteinuria  and oliguria <500 mL/day
  • Serum creatinine >1.1 mg/dL or increased to twice the normal concentration without other renal disease
  • HELLP syndrome (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelet count)


Risk Stratification
  • Decisions on the management of hypertension should be based on blood pressure (BP) levels along with other cardiovascular (CV) risk factors, target organ damage (TOD) and concomitant disorders
Low-Risk Hypertension
  • SBP 140-179 mmHg or DBP 90-110 mmHg
  • Normal physical exam
  • Normal echocardiography (ECG) and echo
  • Without proteinuria
High-Risk Hypertension
  • SBP ≥180 mmHg or DBP ≥110 mmHg
  • End-organ involvement
  • Poor obstetric history, comorbidity with renal impairment, diabetes mellitus (DM) or collagen vascular diseases
Work-up for Chronic Hypertension
  • Evaluate patients with preexisting hypertension before pregnancy to define its severity and to facilitate planning for changes in lifestyle and pharmacotherapy if required
  • If a woman’s BP elevation is confirmed and especially if it is severe, a woman should be evaluated for potentially reversible causes
  • Woman with a history of high BP for several years should be evaluated for TOD

Laboratory Tests

 Lab Tests for Chronic Hypertension

  • Should be taken, if not yet done previously or recently, to exclude secondary causes, risk factors and TOD
    • Complete blood count (CBC), urinalysis, renal function test, fasting blood sugar, lipid profile (after 9- to 12-hour fast), serum sodium (Na), potassium (K), uric acid
    • Chest X-ray
    • 12-lead echocardiography (ECG)
Presence of Secondary Cause or Evidence of Target Organ Damage (TOD)
  • Patient should be referred to a specialist and treated appropriately if a secondary cause of hypertension is found
  • Further tests should be done, if TOD is found, in order to evaluate the level of severity
Pregnancy Assessment

Check for Proteinuria
  • All pregnant women should be checked for proteinuria
    • 24-hour urine collection is recommended but other acceptable methods are urine dipstick test or urine protein: creatinine ratio
    • Proteinuria should be suspected in patients with ≥2+ protein on urine dipstick
    • Confirmation of proteinuria: ≥300 mg/day in a 24-hour urine sample or ≥30 mg/mmol urine creatinine in a random urine sample
Other Lab Tests
  • It is important to rule out preeclampsia in pregnant women with hypertension
  • The following are used to distinguish preeclampsia from chronic hypertension: CBC, platelet count, blood smear, coagulation profile, serum creatinine, uric acid, liver enzymes, serum albumin, lactic acid dehydrogenase
Digital Edition
Asia's trusted medical magazine for healthcare professionals. Get your MIMS Cardiology - Malaysia digital copy today!
Editor's Recommendations
Most Read Articles
24 Dec 2017
Losartan at 50 mg is effective in reducing blood pressure in patients with postdialysis euvolemic hypertension, a recent study has shown.
29 Dec 2017
Preoperative hyponatraemia and higher body mass index (BMI) before surgery increase the risk of postoperative stress-related cardiomyopathy (SRC), according to a recent study.
24 Dec 2017
Cardiovascular (CV) diseases or CV risk factors account for the reduced quality of life (QOL) in diabetics compared with nondiabetics, a recent study has found.
24 Dec 2017
The CENTERA transcatheter heart valve (THV) has been proven safe and effective in high-surgical-risk patients with severe symptomatic aortic stenosis at 30 days, resulting in low mortality, significant improvements in haemodynamic outcomes, and low incidence of adverse events, according to a study.