Postpartum hypertension is when a person experiences high blood pressure after giving birth. It can have serious complications, but it is treatable.

The postpartum period begins when a person gives birth and lasts 6 to 8 weeks.

Hypertension is high blood pressure, a condition that increases someone’s risk of health complications.

This article discusses the causes of postpartum hypertension, its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. It also discusses the risk factors, complications, prevention, outlook, and when to consult a doctor.

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A person’s blood pressure usually peaks 3 to 6 days after delivery, even if they have no history of hypertension.

Several factors can contribute to postpartum hypertension.

They include:

People with preeclampsia, or preexisting hypertension, may require more careful monitoring.

When preeclampsia and gestational hypertension contribute to postpartum hypertension, it usually resolves by 12 weeks. If high blood pressure persists beyond this point, there may be other causes.

Read about postpartum recovery.

Signs of postpartum hypertension include:

However, some people experiencing postpartum hypertension have no symptoms.

Read more about the symptoms of high blood pressure.

When the heart pumps blood, the force it exerts against blood vessel walls is known as blood pressure.

Doctors measure blood pressure in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) using two numbers:

  • Systolic: This is the upper number and represents the force against blood vessel walls during each heartbeat.
  • Diastolic: This is the lower number and represents the force against blood vessel walls between heartbeats when the heart is relaxed.

In postpartum, doctors classify blood pressure in the following ways:

Blood pressureSystolic (mm Hg)Diastolic (mm Hg)
Hypertensive crisis (emergency)160110

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends seeking immediate medical treatment if a person experiences a hypertensive crisis, which is a sudden rise in blood pressure.

Blood pressure naturally fluctuates in response to factors such as stress or physical activity. So, one elevated reading is not enough to diagnose hypertension.

For a doctor to diagnose hypertension, a person must have high readings at a minimum of two separate appointments.

To assess the effects of postpartum hypertension, doctors may also conduct a physical exam and order more tests, such as:

If a person has no symptoms and their blood pressure is 150/100 or higher, they can take oral medication as an outpatient.

Medications include:

A 2023 study found that:

  • People using nifedipine had a 65% lower risk of hospital readmission for hypertensive complications than those who went without treatment.
  • Those who used nifedipine with labetalol had a 56% reduction in their risk of hospital readmission.

Whether a person chooses to breastfeed their newborn can affect postpartum hypertension treatment. Some medications are safe for use during breastfeeding. However, some are unsuitable, such as angiotensin-2 receptor blockers.

A doctor will recommend hospital treatment if a person has postpartum preeclampsia with severe features, which may include signs of impaired liver function and shortness of breath. Management may include blood pressure monitoring, regular blood tests, and giving the person magnesium.

Although anyone can experience postpartum hypertension, certain factors may increase its likelihood.

They include:

Read more about risk factors for high blood pressure.

A person experiencing postpartum hypertension may be at risk of complications, including:

A healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise may help reduce a person’s risk of developing postpartum hypertension. A person can ask a doctor to recommend exercises suitable for pregnancy.

If someone experiences preeclampsia or has a history of high blood pressure, avoiding NSAIDs for pain control may reduce their risk of postpartum hypertension.

Some research suggests that for people with high blood pressure during pregnancy, their risk of postpartum hypertension may decrease if they use diuretics after giving birth. Diuretics help rid the body of excess fluid, which can contribute to high blood pressure.

A person needs to contact a doctor if they experience the following symptoms:

  • vision changes
  • persistent headache
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Immediate help is vital if a person has these symptoms:

  • chest pain
  • breathing difficulties
  • loss of consciousness

Hypertension increases a person’s risk of stroke. This is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.

Signs of stroke include:

Read more about what a stroke feels like.

Postpartum hypertension is treatable with medication and can resolve without issues.

An estimated 33% of people with elevated blood pressure after the birth of their baby return to having typical levels within 2 days. Others return to nonhypertensive blood pressure levels after a few weeks.

Postpartum hypertension is also potentially serious and, when severe, can lead to life threatening issues, such as organ failure and stroke.

Research has found that people who experience hypertensive disorders during pregnancy have a higher risk of adverse cardiovascular issues later in life. These issues include coronary heart disease and chronic hypertension.

Postpartum hypertension is high blood pressure during the 6 to 8 weeks following childbirth.

Certain factors increase a person’s risk of experiencing postpartum hypertension, including previous hypertension and preeclampsia.

Postpartum hypertension can cause serious complications, such as organ damage and stroke. However, it is treatable with medication and often resolves without long-term effects.