Pregnancy problems may foretell future heart disease
Women who develop health problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes while they’re pregnant face an increased risk of heart disease later in life, according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association published May 4, 2021, in the journal Circulation.
Up to 15% of women experience what doctors refer to as adverse pregnancy outcomes.
In addition to high blood pressure and diabetes (known as gestational hypertension and gestational diabetes, respectively), four other pregnancy-related conditions also are associated with cardiovascular risk: preterm birth (giving birth before the 37th week of pregnancy), delivering a small baby (one that weighs less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces), placental abruption (when the placenta separates from the uterus before birth), and stillbirth (death of a baby before delivery).
During pregnancy, a woman’s heart pumps about 50% more blood than usual, and the demands on her body are akin to a cardiac stress test. Women who had pregnancy complications, even if they gave birth decades ago, should share that information with their physicians. The added cardiovascular risk may warrant more vigilant screening and treatment of factors related to heart health, such as blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.