According to Shabalala, she was first diagnosed with high blood pressure three years ago when she was 19. She was put on medication, which she took regularly at first, but then stopped after a few months when she started feeling better.

“Just a few weeks after founding out I was pregnant with my baby boy Blessing, I started experiencing these signs and symptoms of hypertension,” she said.

These included headaches, dizziness, stomach pains, vision changes and excessive vomiting and nausea.

She started to panic and immediately went to the clinic. It was right at the beginning of her first trimester that was diagnosed with high blood pressure.

During her second trimester she visited Matsulu Clinic for a second opinion from her local gynecologist who confirmed she had hypertension and, due to her history with the chronic condition, her pregnancy was automatically classified as high risk.

Eating healthy

“I immediately started taking the medication and followed every instruction I was given by my midwife because I didn’t want to die or to lose my child. To be honest, I had no information about high-risk pregnancies. But I knew to adhere to treatment and change my lifestyle by eating healthy food and keeping my body active because a healthy body and mind is always the best,” she said.

“I was told that the reason I had preeclampsia is that my high blood pressure got worse. I was also told that if my hypertension doesn’t decrease I may develop complications such as congestive heart failure, vision problems, a stroke, seizures and kidney or liver problems.”

According to midwife Thembi Mabaso “Preeclampsia is high blood pressure that occurs exclusively in pregnancy. Therefore, even if your chronic high blood pressure is under control before you are pregnant, you may later develop preeclampsia as well.”

“If you have chronic high blood pressure you are more likely to develop preeclampsia – but does not necessarily mean you will. If a mother does develop preeclampsia, their doctor may recommend inducing labor before the due date to prevent further pregnancy complications. If the preeclampsia is severe the doctor may recommend a Caesarean birth,” Mabaso said.

She advised women with high-risk pregnancies to seek professional assistance from a doctor or healthcare specialist as with proper care it was possible for a woman with high-risk pregnancy to give birth to a healthy baby.

An edited version of this story was published by Health24.