Pregnancy blood pressure screening draft recommendations expanded for 1st time

Doctors and healthcare providers should monitor pregnant patients' blood pressure regularly during and after pregnancy, according to a new draft recommendation.

The recommendation was published Tuesday by the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, a volunteer panel of experts that is highly influential in setting medical guidance.

The new draft guidance expands on existing recommendations to include screening for all types of blood pressure disorders during pregnancy. It recommends monitoring blood pressure at each doctors' visit, starting early in pregnancy and ending six weeks after birth.

Left untreated, high blood pressure during pregnancy can lead to a range of health problems, including stroke, organ damage, seizures and low birth weight for newborns, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One of the most common conditions associated with high blood pressure during pregnancy, preeclampsia, happens in around 1 in 25 pregnancies in the United States, according to the CDC.

Other conditions that can result from high blood pressure include gestational hypertension, eclampsia, and chronic hypertension with and without superimposed preeclampsia, the task force says, noting that risk factors for high blood pressure in pregnancy include a previous adverse pregnancy outcome, having gestational diabetes or chronic hypertension, having a high BMI prior to pregnancy and being 35 years or older.

PHOTO: A pregnant woman sits with a Doctor in this undated stock photo. (STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images)
PHOTO: A pregnant woman sits with a Doctor in this undated stock photo. (STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images)

Regular screening for blood pressure during and after pregnancy can help because it will give health care providers more opportunities to intervene with treatments that can can help reduce health risks, according to the task force. It emphasized the need for expanded blood pressure screenings because of racial disparities that put pregnant Black and Native American women at greater risk.

In the U.S., Black women and Native American women are two to three times as likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than white women, according to the CDC. Across all races, the U.S. has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, with around 700 women dying each year as a result of complications due to pregnancy.

The task force's new guidance follows a trend of increasing rates of high blood pressure among pregnant women, particularly among women of color.

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Blood pressure-related disorders during pregnancy are a leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States.

Black and Native American women experience a disproportionately high rate of blood pressure conditions, according to the CDC

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"Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy are among the leading causes of serious complications and death for pregnant people in the United States," task force member Dr. Esa Davis, associate professor of medicine and clinical and translational science at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and the director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Tobacco Treatment Service, said in a statement Tuesday. "Fortunately, measuring blood pressure at each prenatal visit is an effective way to screen for these conditions so pregnant people can receive the care they need.

The task force is now seeking comments on the draft guidance, and says more research is needed before it is finalized.

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