Preeclampsia & Long Term Heart Health

preeclampsia

As doulas, we have learned that preeclampsia can be a very serious condition that can impact our clients pregnancies. One that has the potential to negatively impact the health of the birthing person and their baby during pregnancy.

A recent discovery has revealed that these conditions can also increase risk over the lifetime of the pregnant parent.

On November 11, 2019, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology published a study on long term cardiovascular health. The study demonstrated an association between high blood pressure during pregnancy or preeclampsia with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease later in life.

The study looked at over 220,000 women and followed them for an average of 7 years.

The data revealed three significant findings.

  1. Individuals with a history of high blood pressure or preeclampsia during pregnancy were identified to have “stiffer arteries” and a 2-5 times increased risk of developing chronic high blood pressure later in life. This increased risk appeared across all age groups.
  2. Individuals with a history of high blood pressure or preeclampsia were also more likely to develop coronary artery disease, heart failure, aortic stenosis, and mitral regurgitation.
  3. The study demonstrated that chronic hypertension was responsible for 1/2 to 1/3 of coronary disease and heart failure. Which demonstrated the importance of treating high blood pressure after pregnancy.

According to Michael Honigberg MD:
“We’re still figuring out how to predict and prevent hypertensive disorders in pregnancy. But what we can do is look ahead and try to mitigate the risk of these women developing cardiovascular disease later in life.” 

According to Honigberg, very few doctors outside of OB/GYNs are asking about a history of high blood pressure or preeclampsia during pregnancy as a part of screening for cardiovascular risk factors. It is important that those who have this history disclose it to their physicians.

As doulas, we can support our clients by offering education to those with preeclampsia.

They may not realize the potential long term impact on their cardiovascular health. We can also remind our clients of the importance of them sharing their pregnancy health history with all of their providers going forward.