Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects around 1 in 10 pregnancies and is a major cause of maternal death in the UK.
Mothers are at risk of stroke and damage to their kidneys, while babies can be born too early or may be underweight. There are different types of hypertension in pregnancy. The most common are chronic (pre-existing) hypertension and pre-eclampsia.
Chronic high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia
In 2015, Tommy’s opened the Hypertension in Pregnancy Clinic at St Thomas’ Hospital in London. The clinic, which is led by Professor Lucy Chappell and Dr Kate Harding, primarily cares for women with chronic hypertension, although we also see women with pre-eclampsia or women who had pre-eclampsia in a previous pregnancy.
Our aim is to improve outcomes for women and their babies by providing specialist support and treatment, and we work alongside hospital or community midwives to look after women for the whole of their pregnancy. So far, we have cared for over 190 women.
Research is an important part of our work, and 3 out of 4 women seen in our clinic take part in at least one study. A key aim of our research is working out how to identify the women and babies who are at high risk of the complications associated with high blood pressure, so that we can make sure they receive the right level of care.
Treating high blood pressure without harming the baby
We are also looking into the best way to treat high blood pressure without harming mother or baby. In the future, we want to study how the placenta works in women who have both high blood pressure and diabetes, as the majority of these women develop pre-eclampsia, give birth prematurely and have underweight babies.