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New study finds that women with severe pre-eclampsia may have ‘masked hypertension’ in the year after birth

Posted: 07/02/2018

A new study has concluded that women who suffer from severe pre-eclampsia during pregnancy need to have their blood pressure monitored closely in the year after giving birth.

Pre-eclampsia occurs in the later stages of pregnancy. High blood pressure and excess protein in the urine are classic signs. Up to 6% of pregnant women develop mild-pre-eclampsia while the condition becomes serious in 1-2% of pregnancies. If left unmonitored and untreated, pre-eclampsia can result in serious complications both for the mother and her child.

The Dutch study looked at 200 women who had suffered pre-eclampsia in pregnancy, taking blood pressure readings in clinics and at home. When the in-clinic readings only were used, 56% of the women who had high blood pressure were missed. The study concluded that high blood pressure ‘often goes unnoticed because women may have normal blood pressure readings’ when the tests were taken in-clinic.

The study also found that 42.5% of the women involved suffered from nighttime hypertension and that in 46% there was an insufficient decrease in blood pressure from daytime to nighttime.

Dr Philip Lewis, a member of the British and Irish Hypertension Society, said: “Masked hypertension is the most dangerous of all as you’ve been reassured all is well so you don’t bother to do anything about it,” while a spokesperson from the charity Blood Pressure UK commented: “The results of this small study should encourage all women who have had pre-eclampsia to help out their GP by using a blood pressure monitor at home and trying to gauge a true reflection of their blood pressure.”

Camilla Wonnacott, an associate in Penningtons Manches’ clinical negligence team, who specialises in cardiology claims, explained: “Hypertension increases the risk of damage to the blood vessels and to the heart and, ultimately, can put a patient at risk of serious and life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and stroke. It is important for women to know their blood pressure numbers so that they can take the necessary action to achieve and then maintain a healthy blood pressure. Early awareness and monitoring can avoid problems developing. A monitoring system that improves screening for high blood pressure in these women would be very welcome.”

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