Choosing blood pressure thresholds to inform pregnancy care in the community: An analysis of cluster trials

Document Type



Women and Child Health; Obstetrics and Gynaecology


Objective: To inform digital health design by evaluating diagnostic test properties of antenatal blood pressure (BP) outputs and levels to identify women at risk of adverse outcomes.
Design: Planned secondary analysis of cluster randomised trials.
Setting: India, Pakistan, Mozambique.
Population: Women with in-community BP measurements and known pregnancy outcomes.
Methods: Blood pressure was defined by its outputs (systolic and/or diastolic, systolic only, diastolic only or mean arterial pressure [calculated]) and level: normotension-1 (<135/85 mmHg), normotension-2 (135-139/85-89 mmHg), non-severe hypertension (140-149/90-99 mmHg; 150-154/100-104 mmHg; 155-159/105-109 mmHg) and severe hypertension (≥160/110 mmHg). Dose-response (adjusted risk ratio [aRR]) and diagnostic test properties (negative [-LR] and positive [+LR] likelihood ratios) were estimated.
Main outcome measures: Maternal/perinatal composites of mortality/morbidity.
Results: Among 21 069 pregnancies, different BP outputs had similar aRR, -LR, and +LR for adverse outcomes. No BP level (even normotension-1) was associated with low risk (all -LR ≥0.20). Across outcomes, risks rose progressively with higher BP levels above normotension-1. For each of maternal central nervous system events and stillbirth, BP ≥155/105 mmHg showed at least good diagnostic test performance (+LR ≥5.0) and BP ≥135/85 mmHg at least fair performance, similar to BP ≥140/90 mmHg (+LR 2.0-4.99).
Conclusions: In the community, normal BP values do not provide reassurance about subsequent adverse outcomes. Given the similar performance of BP cut-offs of 135/85 and 140/90 mmHg for hypertension, and 155/105 and 160/110 mmHg for severe hypertension, digital decision support for women in the community should consider using these lower thresholds.


Volume, issue, and pagination are not provided by the author/publisher.

Publication (Name of Journal)

BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology