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OBJECTIVES: Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP) affect one in ten pregnancies and often persist postpartum when complications can occur. We aimed to determine the effectiveness and safety of pharmacological interventions, other interventions and different care models for postpartum hypertension management. DESIGN: A systematic review was undertaken. Nine electronic databases, including Medline, were searched from inception to 16 March 2017. After duplicate removal, 4561 records were screened. Two authors independently selected studies, extracted study characteristics and data, and assessed methodological quality. SETTING: Randomised controlled trials, case-control studies and cohort studies from any country and healthcare setting. PARTICIPANTS: Postnatal women with HDP. INTERVENTIONS: Therapeutic intervention for management of hypertension, compared with another intervention, placebo or no intervention. PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES: Outcome data were collected for maternal mortality and severe morbidity; systolic, diastolic and mean arterial blood pressure (BP) control; and safety data. Secondary outcome data collected included the length of postnatal hospital stay and laboratory values. RESULTS: 39 studies were included (n=2901). Results were heterogeneous in terms of intervention, comparison and outcome requiring a narrative approach. There were insufficient data to recommend any single pharmacological intervention. 18 studies reported calcium-channel blockers, vasodilators and beta-blockers lowered BP postpartum. 12 of these reported safety data. Limited data existed regarding management in the weeks following hospital discharge. Neither loop diuretics (three studies) nor corticosteroids (one study) produced clinical benefit. Uterine curettage significantly reduced BP over the first 48 hours postpartum (range 6-13 mm Hg) compared with standard care (eight studies), with safety data only reported by four of eight studies. CONCLUSION: There was insufficient evidence to recommend a particular BP threshold, agent or model of care, but three classes of antihypertensive appeared variably effective. Further comparative research, including robust safety data, is required. Curettage reduced BP, but without adequate reporting of harms, so it cannot currently be recommended.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date





antihypertensive medication, gestational hypertension, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, postpartum, preeclampsia, systematic review, Adrenergic beta-Antagonists, Antihypertensive Agents, Calcium Channel Blockers, Female, Humans, Hypertension, Pregnancy-Induced, Postpartum Period, Pregnancy, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, Vasodilator Agents