Obesity During Pregnancy May Harm the Heart Later

Obese pregnant women may be at increased risk for hospitalization due to heart disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Almost one third of women of childbearing age are obese, which may affect the development of the unborn baby as well as the mother's long-term heart health.

A recent study found that obesity during pregnancy was a risk factor for long-term hospitalization due to heart disease.

The researchers suggested that obese pregnant women might benefit from heart screening for early detection of heart disease and prevention of future hospitalizations.

"Discuss your weight with an OBGYN if you are pregnant."

The lead author of this study was Shimrit Yaniv Salem, MD, from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Soroka University Medical Center at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be'er Sheva, Israel.

The study included 46,688 women who gave birth between 1988 and 1999.

The researchers conducted a follow-up in 2010 and compared the incidence of heart disease in women who were obese during pregnancy versus that of women who were not obese during pregnancy.

Incidence of heart disease was split into four different categories:

  • Simple heart disease events, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol 
  • Complex heart disease events, such as heart failure or irregular heart beat
  • Invasive heart surgery
  • Non-invasive heart surgery

The findings showed that 1,221 of the women (3 percent) were obese when they gave birth. Of these obese women, 7 percent had been hospitalized for heart disease.

The obese women had higher rates of non-invasive heart surgery and simple heart disease events.

A total of 2 percent of the obese women had non-invasive heart surgery, compared to 1 percent of those who were not obese. A total of 5 percent of the obese women had simple heart disease events, compared to 3 percent of the women who were not obese.

These complications happened at a younger age and after a shorter length of time after pregnancy among the obese participants, with an average of 4,871 days for obese participants and 5,060 for those who were not obese.

The researchers determined that the obese women were 90 percent more likely to undergo a non-invasive heart surgery than the women who were not obese.

The obese women were twice as likely to have a simple heart disease event.

After adjusting for diabetes, preeclampsia (high blood pressure and proteins in urine during pregnancy) and maternal age, the researchers found that obesity during pregnancy was independently associated with a 33 percent increased risk of long-term heart-related hospitalizations.

This study was presented on February 7 at The Pregnancy Meeting, the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

Review Date: 
January 31, 2014
Last Updated:
February 6, 2014