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Pregnancy Induced Hypertension & Magnesium Sulfate

By Anna Aronson ; Updated June 13, 2017

High blood pressure during pregnancy, called pregnancy-induced hypertension (PIH), can affect your fetus because blood flow to the placenta can be restricted, meaning your baby receives less oxygen and fewer nutrients, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports. The condition typically resolves on its own after delivery, although some women still experience elevated blood pressure for some time after giving birth. Drug treatment includes the use of magnesium sulfate.

Risk Factors

Pregnancy-induced hypertension most commonly affects a woman in her first pregnancy, although it can develop in any woman who is expecting. Women with certain medical conditions are more likely to develop PIH, including those who have chronic hypertension, kidney disease and immune disorders. It’s also more common if you are overweight, are younger than 20 or older than 35 years old, if you're carrying multiple babies and if you have a personal or family history of the condition. Drugs, alcohol and tobacco use and abuse also increase a women’s risk, the Cleveland Clinic reports.


If you develop PIH, your doctor will likely require that you immediately go on bed rest or even be hospitalized so your condition can be monitored continuously. In addition to regularly monitoring your blood pressure and your baby's vital signs, you may also have to undergo blood and urine tests to see how the condition affects your other bodily systems. Antihypertensive drugs -- in many cases magnesium sulfate -- are often given to help lower blood pressure. In cases where blood pressure rises dangerously high or if treatment is not helping, you may have to deliver your baby early, the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin reports.

How Administered

When used to treat pregnancy-induced hypertension, magnesium sulfate typically is administered via an injection. In particular, it is used to help prevent seizures in a woman whose blood pressure is too high. You typically receive the injection through an existing intravenous line, although you can also receive intramuscular injections. Because of how it works in the body, magnesium sulfate typically is given in small amounts over an extended period of time, the University of Maryland Medical Center reports.

Side Effects and Warnings

Women often experience bothersome side effects when given magnesium sulfate to treat pregnancy-induced hypertension. You may develop lightheadedness, dizziness, flushing, sweating, changes in muscle control and trouble breathing, the University of Maryland Medical Center reports. Make sure your doctor is aware of your entire health history before you receive magnesium sulfate injections. In particular, the drug can cause harm in a woman who has kidney disease. It can also interact with certain medications, including certain diuretics, certain antibiotics, digitalis, cisplatin, cyclosporine and amphotericin B.

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