Pregnancy Related Disorders Lead To Later Cardiovascular Issues

by Mark Benson on February 23, 2012

Health issues during pregnancy have long term effects

According to research published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, a woman who had pregnancy related disorders such as hypertension and diabetes can result in the increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Pregnant women who developed hypertension called pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes were at increased risk of cardiovascular disease later on in life. Pre-eclampsia is often associated with a wider range of cardiovascular disease risk factors and may become a better determinant in middle age heart issues compared to other pregnancy related issues.

According to Abigail Fraser MPH, PhD of the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol, “We wanted to learn about possible explanations as to why women with pregnancy complications tend to have more heart disease later in life.”

The research was conducted with 3,416 pregnant women who participated in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children back in the 1990s. There were 1,002 or 29.8 percent had one pregnancy complication, 175 or 5.2 percent had two complications and 26 or 0.8 percent had all three complications.

These complications during pregnancy were gestational diabetes, hypertension or blood pressure related disorders, pre-term delivery and size of infant at birth, which is either bottom or top ten percent in weight overall. These complications were compared to the cardiovascular risk factors found eighteen years later when the women reached forty-eight years of age. The researchers calculated the odds and risks and found the following conclusions were found:

  1. When the pregnant woman suffered from pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and low infant birth weight were associated with an increased risk of heart disease with each complication was related to a different cardiovascular disease risk factor;
  2. When the woman suffered from gestational diabetes was related to 26 percent and pre-eclampsia was related to 31 percent increased risk of developing middle age heart disease;
  3. With women experiencing these complications, gestational diabetes was associated with increased levels of fasting glucose and insulin;
  4. Pre-eclampsia was associated with increased body mass index and greater waist measurements, together with high blood pressure, increased lipids and lower sensitivity to insulin;
  5. Women that gave birth to babies larger than normal also had increased waist measurements and greater levels of blood glucose while those who gave birth pre-term had higher blood pressure;

Fraser added, “Pregnancy may provide an opportunity to identify women at increased risk of heart disease while they are relatively young; thus, it would be useful for medical professionals to have information on pregnancy complications so they can recommend lifestyle changes and any necessary medical intervention sooner. A woman who experiences complications during pregnancy should be proactive and ask her doctor about future CVD risk and steps she should modify her risk.”


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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