HomePregnancyPregnancy-induced Hypertension (PIH): Symptoms, Causes & Concerns

Pregnancy-induced Hypertension (PIH): Symptoms, Causes & Concerns


Variations in hormones during pregnancy can bring about a series of bodily changes in pregnancy. Pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH) is one such change that affects nearly 6 to 10% of pregnant women. 

Pregnancy-induced hypertension is an increase in blood pressure during pregnancy. It is also termed “toxaemia,” “gestational hypertension,” or “preeclampsia.” It generally occurs in women having their first pregnancy and is most common among women bearing twins or triplets. 

This condition usually develops in the later pregnancy term, i.e., after 20 weeks of gestation, and will require continuous monitoring and care. Untreated preeclampsia can lead to serious complications, affecting the mother and the baby. 

This article gives you all the information you need to know about pregnancy-induced hypertension, its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. 

What does high bp in pregnancy mean?

Pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH) refers to elevated blood pressure levels in pregnancy. It is also called “preeclamptic toxaemia,” or “hypertensive disease of pregnancy.” Most cases of PIH or preeclampsia are either mild and cause no major complications. 

Gestational hypertension or PIH is defined as having blood pressure greater than 140/90 on two occasions at least 6 hours apart. 

However, if the condition gets serious or worsens, things can get complicated for the mother and the baby. Preeclampsia increases the protein output in the urine. It can cause seizures or “eclampsia” in the mother while affecting foetal growth. 

High blood pressure in pregnancy can eventually increase resistance in the blood vessels, impeding blood flow into many organs or systems. Any hindrance in the blood flow to the placenta, there is a high chance of having a placental abruption or premature detachment of the placenta from the uterus. This can lead to premature delivery (childbirth before 37 weeks of gestation). 

PIH can also cause critical growth problems to the foetus due to interrupted blood flow to the placenta, causing an improper flow of nutrients and oxygen to the baby. Mothers with chronic PIH can also have babies with low birth weight or stillbirth. 

Untreated PIH can lead to life-threatening conditions. Most pregnant women show little or no symptoms of PIH. Regular prenatal checks and bp monitoring can help timely detection of this condition. 

What are the causes of pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH)?

The exact cause of PIH is unknown. However, pregnant women with the following conditions may have a higher risk of developing PIH. 

  • Already have chronic hypertension or high bp,
  • Have diabetes, kidney problems, or any other autoimmune condition,
  • Having had PIH in the previous pregnancy,
  • Aged above 40 and below 20 years,
  • If it is a twin or triplet pregnancy, 
  • Have a family history of chronic conditions, including diabetes, preeclampsia, high blood pressure,
  • Being overweight or having a high body mass index (BMI) from the start of conception,
  • Conception through assisted reproduction,
  • Having a gap of 10 years since your previous pregnancy. 

If you have any of the risks mentioned above factors, inform your doctor and get regular bp check-ups and urine tests during pregnancy. 

What are the common symptoms of PIH?

Though pregnancy-induced hypertension usually starts after five months of pregnancy, it can trigger any time during the pregnancy term and stay up to 6 weeks post-delivery. Some early symptoms of PIH include a sudden rise in blood pressure and high protein in the urine. 

Progressive PIH can develop symptoms like:

  • Fluid retention or oedema, causing swelling of feet, hands, legs, ankles, and face,
  • Severe headaches that do not subside with medications,
  • Vision blurriness, double vision,
  • Gastric problems- heartburn, pain in the upper abdominal region,
  • Weight gain due to excess fluid accumulation in the body,
  • General weakness,
  • Nausea and vomiting.

PIH can show symptoms in the unborn baby as delayed or slow growth. And sometimes, pregnant women develop PIH after delivery, commonly known as “postpartum preeclampsia.” Hence a regular blood pressure check is crucial even after childbirth.

How is PIH diagnosed and treated?

Frequent antenatal check-ups are one of the effective ways of detecting PIH. If you have any of the PIH symptoms, here are some of the diagnostic tests in pregnancy that can help determine PIH. 

  • Antenatal blood pressure measurement,
  • Urine tests- tests for excess protein,
  • Oedema assessment,
  • Eye testing- for blurry vision,
  • Blood tests- liver and kidney function tests,
  • Ultrasound scans- to check the baby’s growth

PIH treatment

PIH does not go away until childbirth. But high blood pressure in pregnancy needs to be controlled and monitored regularly. Your doctor may prescribe medications to lower blood pressure levels and prevent seizures. 

You may also get hospitalised to control fluid intake and levels in the body while preventing oedema and seizures. You may have timely ultrasound scans, biophysical analysis, and doppler scans to check the foetal condition and growth. Depending on the preeclampsia condition, doctors may advise labour induction or caesarean delivery.  

Though blood pressure levels get back to optimum levels after delivery, some may require medications even after childbirth, and extended hospital stays until the blood pressure levels are optimal. Premature delivery or a child with low birth weight may need special care and NICU assistance until the condition stabilises. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I manage PIH at home?

PIH mainly requires managing the PIH symptoms and controlling bp levels. One can always manage PIH at home. Here are some measures or tips to follow when diagnosed with PIH. 

  • Drink plenty of water to ensure optimum fluid levels in the body,
  • Do not indulge in alcohol, smoking, or drugs,
  • Ensure not to miss any of your antenatal appointments and foetal scans,
  • Have a healthy diet and an active routine,
  • Do not stress.

What are the complications of PIH?

An untreated PIH can increase the risks of kidney and liver impairment in the mother. It can also increase the risk of strokes, blood clotting issues, fluid retention in the lungs, and seizures in the mother. The placenta can get separated from the uterus, causing placental abruption, bleeding, and premature delivery. There are possibilities for the baby to be born with lower birth weight or stillbirth. 

Does PIH go away?

Pregnancy-induced hypertension usually goes away after delivery or childbirth. 


Pregnancy-induced hypertension or gestational diabetes is a condition in pregnant women with elevated blood pressure levels. It can trigger at any time of pregnancy and manifest into a serious condition called “preeclampsia” or “toxaemia.”

Early detection of PIH in women at risk of developing it can help prevent chronic and life-threatening complications of this condition. 

Once diagnosed with PIH, maintaining optimum bp levels and monitoring foetal growth is the key. Consult your doctor if you experience any PIH symptoms to get tested and prevent possible PIH complications. 

Srujana Mohanty
She is the Managing Editor of Cogito137, one of India’s leading student-run science communication magazines. She's been working in scientific and medical writing and editing since 2018, also associated with the quality assurance team of scientific journal editing. Majored in Chemistry with a minor in Biology at IISER Kolkata, Srujana loves doodling and watching series.


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