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Lowering blood pressure in pregnant women

Using deep breathing to lower blood pressure in pregnant women

12-15% of pregnancies in the UK are complicated by high blood pressure (hypertension). There is an increased risk of obstetric complications for women who experience hypertension during pregnancy. A daily exercise of slow and deep breathing has been shown to reduce high blood pressure for non-pregnant adults and could provide an alternative treatment for hypertension during pregnancy. This could remove the need to take hypertensive medications during pregnancy and allow women to have more control over their own care.

Aims

The team have examined the short-term physiological responses (heart rate and blood pressure) to slow and deep breathing in pregnant and non-pregnant women. This has allowed them to design an intervention based on these results and the preferences of women. The aim of this study is to investigate the feasibility of using slow and deep breathing with women who develop high blood pressure during pregnancy. The specific objectives are to:

  • See if women adhere to completing the daily slow and deep breathing exercise;
  • Find out the proportion of women who would be eligible, and who would be willing to undertake the alternative treatment method;
  • Investigate whether slow and deep breathing reduces blood pressure in pregnant women with high blood pressure;
  • Understand if pregnant women with high blood pressure respond differently to slow and deep breathing than pregnant women with normal blood pressure.

Method

Are you pregnant and interested in being involved in this research? The team will be inviting pregnant women who develop high blood pressure after 20 weeks gestation to participate in this study. Women will be recruited from Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s Antenatal Day Assessment Unit. You would complete a 10 min breathing exercise every day from enrolment until you give birth. To help you lower your breathing rate during the breathing exercise you would follow a video aid designed by BU to guide your breathing. The picture to the left shows a screenshot of the video graphic. You would also be asked to monitor your blood pressure daily at home.

You would attend a session at Bournemouth University for approx. 90 minutes. At this session you will be given the instructions to complete the slow and deep breathing exercise and also undertake a short protocol to examine your immediate responses to the slow and deep breathing.

Findings

Findings of the study will be published here once the study has been completed at the end of 2020.

More information

If you are interested in getting involved in the research or would like to find out more then please contact the primary investigator Malika Felton. Malika can be reached on 01202 961845 or at mfelton@bournemouth.ac.uk.