July 5 (UPI) -- In 2017, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association revised the clinical guidelines for hypertension, which lowered the threshold for systolic and diastolic blood pressure numbers. But the new numbers didn't apply to pregnant women.
In a new study, researchers used the adapted guidelines to gauge high blood pressure rates in pregnant women -- and found more than 25 percent suffered from gestational hypertension. That compared to only 4.2 percent under the old guidelines, according to findings published Wednesday in the Circulation Research.
"Timely, accurate diagnosis of gestational hypertension is crucial for preventing associated conditions for pregnant women like preeclampsia and postpartum chronic hypertension," Jie Hu, a researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital and study first author, said in a news release. "Infants born to women with gestational hypertension are more susceptible to preterm birth and adverse long-term health outcomes like young adulthood cardiovascular disease."
A team of researchers looked at the systolic and diastolic blood pressure data for more than 16,000 women at a Chinese maternal and child hospital during different points of their pregnancies.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women with gestational hypertension usually receive the diagnosis after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The high blood pressure number normally falls after giving birth, although some women go on to develop chronic hypertension.
Women who have high blood pressure during pregnancy are at a higher risk for stroke and other cardiovascular events after giving birth, the CDC said. It recommends calling 911 if feelings of nausea, vomiting, sudden weight gain or other symptoms of preeclampsia occur.
For future studies, the researchers want to compare these results to a more racially and ethnically diverse pool of study subjects outside China.
"Incorporating the 2017 ACC/AHA guidelines into prenatal care practice could improve detection of high blood pressure during pregnancy and the effort to reduce adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes in the perinatal period that are related to gestational hypertension," Hu said.