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New Report Suggests Pregnancy Complications May Indicate Later Chronic Health Issues

ACOG now says that pregnancy complications can increase chronic disease risk later in lifeA new report published in Obstetrics & Gynecology and the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests that there are certain pregnancy complications that should be looked at as warning signs for chronic health conditions like diabetes and hypertension.

While a woman’s body was made to nurture, carry and grow human life, doing so can put stress on a woman’s body. A new report recommends that doctors look at those stresses on a woman’s body while she is (or ever experienced) pregnancy as they may be masking health problems and possible contributors to disease even years after their babies are born.

Related: Study: Rise in Blood Pressure Increases Pregnancy Risks

The report recommends that doctors know if a woman suffered from things like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia during any pregnancy as they may be risk factors for chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes. The experts behind the report suggest that in addtion to yearly visits to gynecologists and primary care doctors, mothers should let their clinicians know if they’ve had pregnancy complications and should be screened for early signs of chronic disease.

Dr. Hy Simhan is with the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Magee-Women’s Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh’s Medical Center. He says that complications such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia during pregnancy may be somewhat like crystal balls into the future health problems a woman may have later. Though the conditions may resolve once the baby is born (though preeclampsia is also possible and just as dangerous to a mother after a baby is born), Dr. Simhan says that there is still physiological factoring that can continue and create health complications for the mother as she ages.

The report listed several complications as precursors that may either indicate higher risk or mask/unveil other health problems. Sometimes, those complications (like gestational diabetes or preeclampsia) may contribute to the development of diabetes or hypertension well after the baby is born.

Related: Probiotics During Pregnancy May Lower Risk of Complications

The pregnancy complications mothers should tell their physicians (if they don’t already know) about and why are as follows:

  • Preeclampsia: During pregnancy, this involves hypertension and protein in a woman’s urine but it may also signal the development of chronic hypertension and heart disease later in life. I had postpartum preeclampsia after my first son was born nine years ago and I went from someone with never a blood pressure issue in my life to what my cardiologist calls chronic erratic hypertension now.Experts suggest making sure your primary care practitioner pays careful attention to your blood pressure and maintain a heart-healthy diet if you’ve ever suffered from preeclampsia.
  • Gestational Hypertension: Not as severe as preeclampsia, and very common, but experts believe that their research supports pregnancy hypertension as a risk factor for developing chronic hypertension and maybe two times the risk of heart disease later in life.
  • Gestational Diabetes: Women who have gestational diabetes are seven times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who have low/average blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Experts recommend that six to eight weeks after the baby is born, a woman should be screened for Type 2 diabetes, and then again annually from that point on.
  • Stillbirth: Woman who have stillbirths may have autoimmune conditions such as antiphospholipid antibody syndrome masked. It can also mask undiagnosed lupus, and though there is sadly often no known cause of stillbirth, women who experience stillbirth may have underlying autoimmune issues and could consult rheumatologists.
  • Smaller babies: Experts believe that smaller babies may not have been in utero with robust placentas. This may mean that a woman has vascular disease risk and should let her doctors know.
  • Mood: While the hormones of pregnancy certainly can affect a woman’s mood, and in women who had few, if any, issues with depression or anxiety before. Experts believe that mood issues during pregnancy may be risk factors for mood issues that continue past pregnancy.

Photo: VGstockstudio/Shutterstock

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