9.7.1  How to check blood pressure

There are several types of blood pressure equipment (Figure 9.9).

Blood pressure equipment with a tall gauge and a round and a stethoscope.
Figure 9.9  Blood pressure equipment may have a tall gauge (left) or a round one (middle). You will also need a stethoscope (right).

When you take the woman’s blood pressure, first tell her what you are going to do, and why. Make sure she is sitting or lying comfortably and feels relaxed. Figure 9.10 shows the process step by step.

Diagram showing how to measure blood pressure
Figure 9.10  Diagrams 1 to 7 show you how to measure blood pressure.

As the air leaks out, you will start to hear the woman’s pulse through your stethoscope. Notice where the needle is (see Figure 9.11), or where the column of mercury stops if you have a tall gauge (as on the left of Figure 9.9).

A round blood pressure gauge, pressure is indicated by a needle
Figure 9.11  This gauge is round, and the pressure is indicated by a needle. The other type of blood pressure equipment has a tall gauge with a vertical column of silver mercury and numbers at the side (left image of Figure 9.9); the top of the silver column indicates the blood pressure.

Important!If a woman’s blood pressure is ever higher than 140/90, then it is too high and can be a warning sign. She needs to be referred to a health centre.

You can record the woman’s blood pressure:

  • when you start to hear the pulse (this will be the top number), and
  • when the pulse disappears or gets very soft (this will be the bottom number). Check the woman’s blood pressure at each visit.
    Diagram showing that it is normal for a woman’s blood pressure to go up and down a little from month to month
    Figure 9.12  Record the woman’s blood pressure as shown in this example.
  • Write the blood pressure down on her antenatal record card so you can check for changes over time (see the example in Figure 9.12). If her blood pressure is going up, ask her to come back every week until you are sure that it is not still rising.
  • Look carefully at Figure 9.12. Is there a month in which this woman’s blood pressure is high enough to be a warning sign?

  • No. The top number never goes above 110, and the bottom number never goes above 72. It is normal for each number to vary a little bit from month to month.

9.7  Checking her blood pressure

9.8  Checking for diabetes