Committee Opinion No. 692: Emergent Therapy for Acute-Onset, Severe Hypertension During Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period

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Abstract

Acute-onset, severe systolic hypertension; severe diastolic hypertension; or both can occur during the prenatal, intrapartum, or postpartum periods. Pregnant women or women in the postpartum period with acute-onset, severe systolic hypertension; severe diastolic hypertension; or both require urgent antihypertensive therapy. Introducing standardized, evidence-based clinical guidelines for the management of patients with preeclampsia and eclampsia has been demonstrated to reduce the incidence of adverse maternal outcomes. Individuals and institutions should have mechanisms in place to initiate the prompt administration of medication when a patient presents with a hypertensive emergency. Treatment with first-line agents should be expeditious and occur as soon as possible within 30–60 minutes of confirmed severe hypertension to reduce the risk of maternal stroke. Intravenous labetalol and hydralazine have long been considered first-line medications for the management of acute-onset, severe hypertension in pregnant women and women in the postpartum period. Although relatively less information currently exists for the use of calcium channel blockers for this clinical indication, the available evidence suggests that immediate release oral nifedipine also may be considered as a first-line therapy, particularly when intravenous access is not available. In the rare circumstance that intravenous bolus labetalol, hydralazine, or immediate release oral nifedipine fails to relieve acute-onset, severe hypertension and is given in successive appropriate doses, emergent consultation with an anesthesiologist, maternal–fetal medicine subspecialist, or critical care subspecialist to discuss second-line intervention is recommended.

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