By Dr Jonathan Shurlock
A new study published in the British Medical Journal has found that women who experience complications during pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes, have a higher risk of developing heart disease later in life. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge, analysed data from over one million women in the UK who had given birth between 1997 and 2018.
The study followed the women for an average of 11 years after their last pregnancy, during which time over 14,000 cases of cardiovascular disease were recorded. The researchers found that women who had experienced pregnancy complications had a 70% higher risk of developing heart disease compared to those who had not. Risk was higher for women who had multiple pregnancy complications or who gave birth to a low birth weight baby. Women who had pre-eclampsia had the highest risk, with a threefold increase in their risk of heart disease compared to women who had not experienced the condition.
The study’s findings underscore the importance of healthcare providers ensuring appropriate follow up for this population. Women who have experienced pregnancy complications should be considered a high-risk group for heart disease, and cardiovascular risk factors should be monitored and managed accordingly. Clinicians should consider the importance of a detailed obstetric history when considering an individual’s overall cardiovascular risk.
These findings are particularly significant given that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women worldwide. The study adds to the growing body of evidence on the long-term health implications of pregnancy complications, and highlights the need for further research into how best to prevent and manage heart disease in women who have experienced such complications.
See the full study here: https://www.bmj.com/content/380/bmj-2022-072112