[Treatment of hypertensive diseases in pregnancy—general recommendations and long-term oral therapy]

W Rath
Zeitschrift Für Geburtshilfe und Neonatologie 1997, 201 (6): 240-6
Hypertensive disorders are among the most common causes of maternal and perinatal mortality. Mild and uncomplicated chronic hypertension has a better prognosis than preeclampsia. The primary aims of therapy are to prevent cerebrovascular complications and to avoid the progression of chronic hypertension into superimposed preeclampsia with worse prognosis. In mild courses of the disease bedrest, whether at home or in the hospital, is commonly recommended. A special diet is not required neither for prevention nor for therapy. This also applies for the use of aspirin. Calcium supplementation during pregnancy seems to be effective in reducing the risk of hypertension and to a smaller extent of preeclampsia. Diuretic therapy is only indicated in exceptional cases. Antihypertensive drugs are recommended, if a sustained blood pressure of diastolic > or = 110 mmHg is recorded, in cases of superimposed preeclampsia even if the diastolic blood pressure is > or = 100 (> or = 90) mmHg. alpha-Methyl-dopa is the initial drug of choice for oral antihypertensive therapy. Neither short-term effects on the fetus or neonate nor long-term effects during infancy have been reported after long-term use of alpha-methyl-dopa in pregnancy. The oral application of beta-adrenergic-antagonist drugs is well-tolerated, but should be avoided in cases of severe fetal growth retardation. Dihydralazine treatment is not suitable for oral therapy, since its medication is associated with maternal side effects such as headache and tachycardia. Administration of drugs that inhibit angiotensin-converting enzyme during pregnancy is contra-indicated. Calcium-channel-blocking drugs are frequently used in the USA and in the UK as "second-line" antihypertensive medication, however there is little experience with the long-term administration of these drugs to pregnant women with hypertension. The indication for hospitalization are of particular clinical importance, since a delay in admission associated with maternal complications may lead to juridical troubles. The antihypertensive treatment is only a symptomatic therapy; the obstetrician must be aware that delivery is the ultimate cure of hypertensive disorders in pregnancy. In women with mild chronic hypertension or mild preeclampsia antihypertensive therapy is unlikely to be beneficial regarding the perinatal results, while in severe forms drug therapy is mandatory to avoid life-threatening maternal complications.

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