First-time pregnancy complications linked to increased risk of future hypertension

(Excerpts from NIH): Women who experience complications such as preterm births and preeclampsia during their first pregnancy are nearly twice more likely than women without complications to develop high blood pressure later in life — some as quickly as three years later, according to a new study of more than 4,000 women. The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association. It was funded largely by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health

The researchers obtained detailed medical histories of the women 2-7 years after their first pregnancy to see if outcomes in their first pregnancies were associated with their cardiovascular health; 31% of the women with at least one adverse outcome during their first pregnancy experienced chronic hypertension, while only 17% of those who did not experience complications developed this condition. The risk of developing chronic hypertension grew even higher with additional adverse outcomes.

“We used to think it took years and years to develop high blood pressure,” said study author David Haas, M.D., a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, and a practicing OB/GYN doctor. “We found that it can occur much sooner than expected…in as little as three years.” “The take-home message for pregnant women is to get prenatal care early, talk to your obstetric provider about your current health conditions, and make sure your health is as good as it can be,” Haas said.

Researchers say their findings underscore the need for doctors to focus more aggressively on knowing the health histories of women—both during their pregnancies to help prevent adverse outcomes, and afterwards to flag their risks for future cardiovascular events.

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