Task Force Calls for More Research into Effective Pregnancy Hypertension Screening
Pregnant women should be closely screened for hypertension throughout their pregnancy, due to the threat of underlying blood pressure conditions which may have gone previously undiagnosed, a group of health experts say.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) issued updated guidelines for hypertension screening during pregnancy on September 19, based on a new review of past research on the condition. The new guidelines were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The updated guidelines call for every pregnant woman to be screened for gestational hypertension and preeclampsia. Each patient should undergo blood pressure monitoring during the entire pregnancy, especially women with known pregnancy hypertension or chronic hypertension outside of pregnancy.
Pregnancy Hypertension Health Risks
Hypertensive disorders are a leading cause of pregnancy-related fatalities in the U.S., accounting for roughly 30% of all deaths during delivery. They contribute to the maternal death rate in the U.S. being the highest of any wealthy nation in the world.
In 2021, researchers warned that maternal death rates continue to increase in the United States, especially among minorities, with Black mothers facing the highest death rates during and after delivery.
Hypertensive disorders during pregnancy can include chronic hypertension, as well as preeclampsia and eclampsia, which also account for a large number of maternal deaths in the U.S.
Preeclampsia is a serious condition that can affect every organ in the body and can progress rapidly from seizures to stroke and even lead to death. A number of other studies have previously highlighted how many hospitals are not doing enough to prevent preeclampsia deaths, which could be greatly reduced.
New Pregnancy Hypertension Guidelines
It is standard practice for doctors to take blood pressure readings during prenatal visits, but the new guidelines call for closer monitoring by doctors to help improve hypertension identification and potentially prevent more maternal deaths.
Researchers from the USPSTF conducted two independent reviews of published articles including six studies with more than 10,000 participants. Researchers compared changes in prenatal screening practices with standard care, such as screening during in-person doctor office visits.
The researchers evaluated home blood pressure monitoring, standard care at a doctor’s office, as well as other methods of monitoring such as reduced visit schedules.
According to the findings, standard care offered the best screening method.
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“This review did not identify evidence that any alternative screening strategies for hypertensive disorders of pregnancy were more effective than routine blood pressure measurement at in-person prenatal visits,” the researchers concluded.
They called for more research to fully address whether adding complementary screenings at home could help reduce the side effects of hypertension during pregnancy.
However, the task force called for all pregnant individuals to receive consistent and regular hypertension screenings at their doctor’s office throughout pregnancy, including monitoring for new onset hypertensive conditions during pregnancy.
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