In a study of mothers with a history of preeclampsia, a hypertension complication in pregnancy affecting five percent of all women, researchers at Yale have found that these women have an increased lifetime risk for cardiovascular illness and death.
"Even when a mother's blood pressure returns to normal after delivery, preeclampsia might increase her risk of life–threatening cardiovascular disease," said lead author Edmund F. Funai, M.D., associate professor and co–chief, Division of Maternal–Fetal Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences.
Funai and his team published their findings in the March issue of Epidemiology. They studied deaths among 37,061 women who had given birth in Jerusalem between 1964 and 1976, including 1,070 women with preeclampsia. They used a method called Cox proportional hazard models to investigate the long–term risk of mortality in women with preeclampsia. They controlled for a woman's age and education, history of diabetes, heart disease and low birth weight, the husband's social class, and the calendar year at the start of follow–up.
"Women with a history of preeclampsia had a two–fold risk of death compared with women without any history of the disorder," said Funai. "We also found that women diagnosed with preeclampsia who had a subsequent normal birth were still 2.6 times as likely to die after 20 years of follow–up than women with no history." Currently, the only cure for preeclampsia is delivery. Funai said that a normal blood pressure after preeclampsia should not discourage the search for other cardiovascular risk factors or overshadow the need for other preventive measures.
Other authors on the study included Yechiel Friedlander, Ora Paltiel, Efrat Tiram, Xiaonan Xue, Lisa Deutsch and Susan Harlap.