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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2005 Jan 25;(1):CD004351.

Prevention and treatment of postpartum hypertension.

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  • 1Division of Internal Medicine and Specialized Women's Health, University of British Columbia, Children's and Women's Health Centre of British Columbia, 4500 Oak Street, Suite 1U59, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, V6H 3N1.

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Postpartum blood pressure (BP) is highest three to six days after birth when most women have been discharged home. A significant rise in BP may be dangerous (e.g., lead to stroke), but there is little information about how to prevent or treat postpartum hypertension.


To assess the relative benefits and risks of interventions to: (1) prevent postpartum hypertension, by assessing whether 'routine' postpartum administration of oral antihypertensive therapy is better than placebo/no treatment; and(2) treat postpartum hypertension, by assessing whether (i) oral antihypertensive therapy is better than placebo/no therapy for mild-moderate postpartum hypertension; and (ii) one antihypertensive agent offers advantages over another for mild-moderate or severe postpartum hypertension.


We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group trials register (March 2004), MEDLINE (1966 to May 2003), EMBASE (1980 to January 2003), bibliographies of retrieved papers and personal files.


For women with antenatal hypertension, trials comparing a medical intervention with placebo/no therapy. For women with postpartum hypertension, trials comparing one antihypertensive with either another or placebo/no therapy.


We extracted the data independently and were not blinded to trial characteristics or outcomes. We contacted authors for missing data when possible.


Six trials are included.


Three trials (315 women; six comparisons) compared furosemide or nifedipine capsules with placebo/no therapy. There are insufficient data for conclusions about possible benefits and risks of these management strategies. Most outcomes included data from only one trial. No trial reported severe maternal hypertension or breastfeeding.


In two trials (106 women; three comparisons), oral timolol or hydralazine were compared with oral methyldopa for treatment of mild to moderate postpartum hypertension. In one trial (38 women; one comparison), oral hydralazine plus sublingual nifedipine were compared with sublingual nifedipine for treatment of severe postpartum hypertension. The need for additional antihypertensive therapy did not differ between groups (relative risk 4.24, 95% confidence interval 0.96 to 18.84; three trials, N = 144 women), but three antihypertensive drugs were studied. All were well tolerated.


There are no reliable data to guide management of women who are hypertensive postpartum or at increased risk of becoming so. If a clinician feels that hypertension is severe enough to treat, the agent used should be based on his/her familiarity with the drug. Future studies of prevention or treatment of postpartum hypertension should include information about use of postpartum analgesics and outcomes of severe maternal hypertension, breastfeeding, hospital length of stay, and maternal satisfaction with care.

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