Researchers Report Link Between Complications During Pregnancy and Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Death

Researchers Report Link Between Complications During Pregnancy and Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Death

Researchers from the Child Health and Development Studies at the Public Health Institute in Berkley, California recently published the results of a large-scale study, titled “Pregnancy Complications and Cardiovascular Disease Death: Fifty-Year Follow-Up of the Child Health and Development Studies Pregnancy Cohort” that sought to explore the relationship between multiple instances of pregnancy complications and risk of death from a cardiovascular event. The study also explored age as a factor, and delved into data that spanned 5 decades. The study was published in the journal Circulation.

The cardiovascular system of a woman is challenged during pregnancy, as the blood volume in circulation almost doubles and the immune system has to balance placental implantation, facilitating fetal growth, and also protect the mother. Previous studies have suggested that there is a link between the pregnancy response and cardiovascular disease years later, suggesting that it is possible to identify women with a higher cardiovascular risk during their pregnancy.

Piera M. Cirillo and Barbara A. Cohn gathered data on pregnancy reports between 1959-1967 and deaths due to cardiovascular disease through 2011 from the records of Child Health and Development Studies. In total, data was collected from 14,062 women, with a median age of 26 years during pregnancy, and 66 years upon death in 2011. The team searched for the presence of any pregnancy complication that could predict future cardiovascular death, such as hypertension, glycosuria, late-onset pre-eclampsia, and low hemoglobin in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.

Researchers found that instances of early-onset pre-eclampsia, and delivering a small-for-gestation or preterm neonate were also risk factors for cardiovascular death, with hemorrhage, gestational hypertension, or pre-existing hypertension increasing the risk of death by 4 to 7 times. Further, women who experienced a combined complication of pre-eclampsia or preterm birth and pre-existing hypertension were found to be almost 6 times more at risk of cardiovascular death. Early onset pre-eclampsia was reported to predict death before the age of 60.

The research team believes their findings provide healthcare providers valuable insight into the importance of preventive cardiovascular care in women, especially upon observing specific high-risk pregnancy complications.


According to a recent post in the Open Heart online journal, nutritional recommendations are shifting from counting calories to promoting nutritional values in food. The approach is part of a new paradigm to improve patient outcomes in cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and decrease obesity incidence. 

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