Is Pre-Eclampsia Bad for the Heart?

Pre-eclampsia increases heart disease risk primarily for moms of one child

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A common pregnancy complication is pre-eclampsia. It involves high blood pressure and has been linked to later heart disease. But not all women with it have the same risks.

A recent study found women who get pre-eclampsia and have only one child are at a higher risk for heart disease.

Those who have more than one child have a much lower risk. The reason might be that women with pre-eclampsia and only one child have other underlying health problems.

"Attend all prenatal appointments."

The study, led by Rolv Skjaerven, a professor at the Department of Public Health and Primary Health Care at the University of Bergen in Norway, aimed to find out what kind of link might exist between pre-eclampsia and later heart disease.

The researchers tracked 836,147 Norwegian women who gave birth to their first child child between 1967 and 2002. Of the approximate 23,000 women who died by 2009, 3,891 of them had died from causes related to heart problems.

Among the women who had pre-eclampsia before their 38th week of pregnancy, 9.2 percent eventually died of cardiovascular problems if they only had one child. Among those who had pre-eclampsia before they were due and had two or more children, only 1.1 percent died from cardiovascular causes.

Among those who had pre-eclampsia once they were at full term in their pregnancy, 2.8 percent of those with only one child and 1.1 percent of those with two or more children died of cardiovascular problems.

The women who had pre-eclampsia and went on to have more than one child did have a slightly increased risk of death from heart problems, but it was not especially high, even if they had pre-eclampsia with other pregnancies.

The researchers did not find the overall death rate (taking into account all possible causes) was any different for women who had pre-eclampsia, regardless of how many children they had.

However, these findings do not mean that having only a single child will increase a pre-eclamptic woman's risk of heart disease or that having a second child will reduce the risk.

The link "might be due to health problems that discourage or prevent further pregnancies rather than to pre-eclampsia itself," the researchers wrote.

The study was published November 27 in BMJ. The research was funded by the Norwegian Research Council and the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 30, 2012
Last Updated:
April 11, 2013