NEW US research has found that women diagnosed with preeclampsia during pregnancy are significantly more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol, factors which could contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Led by Karlee Hoffman, cardiology fellow at Allegheny Health Network, the study looked at the health records of more than 650 women, half of whom had been diagnosed with preeclampsia.
The other half of the women had never had a preeclampsia diagnosis and acted as a control group.
The researchers found that at the time of giving birth, the women with preeclampsia had a higher rate of obesity, preterm delivery, babies with low birth weight, and post-delivery complications.
In addition, preeclampsia also appeared to have a longer-term effect on the women's health in the five years following delivery.
Compared to the control group, the women with preeclampsia were more likely to develop high blood pressure (32.8 per cent versus 0.3 per cent of controls), new-onset diabetes (21 per cent versus zero per cent) and high cholesterol (three per cent compared to zero per cent).
Previous studies have also found that women who had preeclampsia during pregnancy have a substantially higher risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and heart failure later in life.
The findings of the new study add to the evidence that the condition contributes to an increased chance of developing cardiovascular risk factors that were not present before pregnancy.
Despite this increased risk, the study also found that few women received medical follow-ups aimed at preventing cardiovascular problems after preeclampsia.
“Women are highly motivated to take care of themselves when they are pregnant and after they deliver their babies, so it's a great time to educate them on long-term cardiovascular risks and potentially intervene with aggressive lifestyle modification,” commented Hoffman.
“The results also showed that black women, women who were older at the time of their pregnancy and women with a prior history of high blood pressure or diabetes faced an especially elevated risk of high blood pressure following preeclampsia, suggesting women with these risk factors should receive even more rigorous medical follow-up,” she added.
Preeclampsia is a dangerous condition in which a woman develops high blood pressure during pregnancy after it has previously been normal, and shows signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys.
It occurs in up to seven per cent of all pregnancies and left untreated can lead to serious and possibly even fatal complications for both mother and baby, with the only cure the delivery of the baby.
The study was presented at the American College of Cardiology's 67th Annual Scientific Session from March 10 to 12.