Women At Risk of Heart Diseases More Likely to Have a Complicated Pregnancy: Study
Women living with a higher risk of heart diseases are also more likely to have adverse outcomes in their pregnancies, according to a new study. This suggests an overlap between risk factors and, perhaps, a link between heart health and maternal health.
Published in Oxford University’s European Journal of Preventive Cardiology last week, the study analyzed maternal and fetal data from more than 18,000,000 pregnancies in the U.S. for women aged between 15 and 44 years — with a mean age of 28.6 years — from 2014 to 2018.
The risk factors for cardiovascular health taken into account for the present research were hypertension, diabetes, self-reported smoking, and being either underweight or overweight as per their BMI (Body Mass Index) value. The results indicated that these risk factors contributed to a greater likelihood of pre-term birth, low birth weight, and fetal death — besides a greater chance of being admitted to the ICU due to pregnancy-related complications.
The more risk factors a woman was found to be living with, the higher was her risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. “With every additive cardiovascular risk factor — and it didn’t matter which risk factor — there was a graded and consistently higher risk for each of the pregnancy complications,” Dr. Sadiya Khan from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, who co-authored the study, said in an interview.
Related on The Swaddle:
Worse still, more than 50% of the women in the study were found to be living with at least one of the risk factors.
Experts believe younger women do not believe that they could be at risk of cardiovascular disease and are, therefore, less cognizant of risk factors. “We’re noticing a rise in risk factors and a decreased awareness of personal cardiovascular risk, especially in this particular age group,” Dr. Nieca Goldberg from the New York University’s Langone Medical Center, who wasn’t involved in the study, commented.
The biggest takeaway from the study, according to experts, is to make heart health an important component of health check-ups prior to and during one’s pregnancy. This is especially relevant amid research suggesting that women’s cardiovascular health remains understudied and under-recognized due to gender bias in medicine.
“A comprehensive cardiovascular assessment before pregnancy should be the standard… In the future, I’d like to see an organized, cooperative approach between cardiologists and the gynecologist and obstetrician community to get young women evaluated for their risk factors,” Dr. Goldberg concluded.