Delivery is believed to be the treatment for preeclampsia, a disease unique to pregnancy complicated by high blood pressure (hypertension). For women diagnosed with preeclampsia and other pregnancy related blood pressure disorders, hypertension can continue for days after delivery, especially for the first 10 days. In fact, it can take up to 6 weeks for your blood pressure to be normal again. That is why it is very important to keep monitoring your blood pressure after you leave the hospital.
If you’ve been diagnosed with preeclampsia, most doctors recommend that you schedule a follow-up visit in the office within a week of delivery to have your blood pressure checked. However, coming to the office after having a newborn is difficult for a variety of reasons, and about 70 percent of women do not make it to this first follow-up appointment.
At Penn, we are making blood pressure monitoring after giving birth more convenient. Heart Safe Motherhood, a first-of-its-kind text message-based program, allows you to track your blood pressure and communicate with your care team without visiting a doctor’s office. The program is now the standard of care for obstetric patients at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Hospital.
What is Preeclampsia?
As many as 1 in 12 pregnant women suffer from preeclampsia, which causes high blood pressure during pregnancy and leading up to delivery. While delivery often starts the process of resolution of the condition, blood pressures can worsen even after giving birth.
High blood pressure from preeclampsia can put you at an increased risk of complications including seizure, stroke, organ damage, coma, and death. The first week after delivery is when your blood pressure is most likely to rise and put you at risk for these complications.
Call your doctor right away if you experience any of the following:
- Severe headache
- Stomach pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Swelling in your hands or face
- Changes in your vision, such as seeing spots
- Difficulty breathing
- You just don’t feel right
What to Expect from Heart Safe Motherhood
Heart Safe Motherhood allows our experts to more easily monitor you – even after you leave the hospital. Here is what to expect:
- While you are in the hospital, we will make sure you are comfortable using text messaging for communicating with our team and make sure we have your phone number.
- We will give you a blood-pressure cuff to take home and train you on its use.
- After you return home, you will a receive a text message reminder to check your blood pressure twice a day for ten days.
- You will take your blood pressure and report the numbers via text message.
- You will receive an immediate text response for every blood pressure reporting, informing you if your blood pressure is normal or high and what to do next.
- If you report higher blood pressures, you may be asked to take additional readings. Your doctor will be notified of the elevated values and then contact you to discuss next steps, ensuring you can get immediate medical attention.
- A member of the Heart Safe Motherhood team will review all blood pressures within 24 hours and contact you with any concerns.
- If appropriate, your doctor can intervene and treat your high blood pressure without a visit to the office. He or she can prescribe medications remotely, so you can stay at home with your newborn.
- Once the ten days are over, we will text you to let you know you no longer need to report your blood pressure readings.
- If you ever have any concerns regarding your health or trouble with the program, please contact your doctor.
- Do not use this program to communicate any emergent issues.
Download the guide to reporting your blood pressure readings as part of the Heart Safe Motherhood program, here.
Long-term Follow Up
If you have been diagnosed with preeclampsia, you have a higher chance of having high blood pressure later in your life. The condition can also increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
You can help limit your risk factors by visiting your primary care doctor for regular check-ups, as well as maintaining an exercise routine and a healthy body weight. If you would like to see a cardiologist who specializes in women’s health, please visit our Women's Cardiovascular Health Program.