Master Class

Postpartum hypertension


 

When managing our pregnant patients, we often might be tempted to view the delivery of the baby as the conclusion of prenatal care. For many women, the baby’s birth coincides with a resolution of health conditions that they may have experienced during pregnancy, including edema, gestational diabetes, and hypertensive disorders. However, the postpartum period remains a critical time in the health of the mother. Indeed, the weeks immediately following parturition often are colloquially referred to as the fourth trimester, further emphasizing the importance of appropriate patient management and care during this time.

Dr. E. Albert Reece, vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean of the school of medicine.

Dr. E. Albert Reece

One of the key health conditions we must monitor in the immediate postpartum period is hypertension. According to a 2018 report compiling data from nine of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Maternal Mortality Review Committees, hypertensive disorders accounted for approximately 9.3% of pregnancy-related maternal deaths within 42 days after delivery (http://reviewtoaction.org/Report_from_Nine_MMRCs). Although women who have hypertensive disorders during pregnancy are at risk for complications after giving birth, women without gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, or eclampsia can experience these conditions post partum at a rate between 0.3% and 27.5% (Am J Obstet Gynecol 2012 Jun;206[6]:470-5). Therefore, we cannot assume that a patient with an uncomplicated pregnancy is completely “in the clear” after delivery.

Despite these somewhat grim statistics, postpartum hypertension and postpartum preeclampsia are readily managed and treatable. With vigilant monitoring and strong communication with our patients, ob.gyns. can reduce the risks of these complications from occurring, more quickly resolve symptoms as they might arise, and significantly improve the health and well-being of new mothers in the fourth trimester.

The importance of caring for all of our patients along the continuum of pregnancy, especially as it pertains to monitoring and preventing postpartum hypertension, is the focus of the third and final installment of this Master Class series on hypertension in pregnancy authored by Dr. Baha Sibai, professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at the University of Texas McGovern Medical School, Houston.

Dr. Reece, who specializes in maternal-fetal medicine, is executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, as well as the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean of the school of medicine. He is the medical editor of this column. He said he had no relevant financial disclosures. Contact him at [email protected].

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