About 25% of women that have hypertension before pregnancy will develop preeclampsia. Any pregnant woman can develop preeclampsia, but there are certain risk factors that can increase their chances.
Preeclampsia is a serious high blood pressure disorder that affects 5-8% of pregnancies and can occur after the 20th week or after giving birth.
Women who have high blood pressure complications during their pregnancy have a 50% increased risk of cardiovascular disease, 90% increased risk for stroke and two-and-a-half times the risk for heart attack, according to a recent study published in the journal Circulation.
“Women that had preeclampsia or eclampsia, which is the most severe type of preeclampsia that also includes seizures, in more than one pregnancy are more likely to develop life-long high blood pressure,” says Dr. Melisa Lott, a maternal fetal medicine physician at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital.
Some risk factors for developing preeclampsia:
- First pregnancy
- High blood pressure
- IVF pregnancy
- Preeclampsia or complications in a previous pregnancy
- Pregnant with twins, triplets or more
“For women that have high risk or multiple risk factors for preeclampsia, we often recommend the use of low-dose aspirin or 81mg daily starting between 12-28 weeks, ideally 12-28 weeks, gestation through delivery,” says Dr. Lott. “Women who are planning to get pregnant should refrain from smoking, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight and take medications as prescribed in order to minimize the risk of future cardiovascular disease.”
“Most women with preeclampsia deliver healthy babies,” says Dr. Dalia Davood, an OB/GYN at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital. “To minimize the risk of stroke and heart attack, it’s especially important to control other diseases. Specific to our obstetrics patients, being that gestational diabetes affects up to 10% of pregnancies and these patients have an increased lifetime risk of up to 70% at 15-25 years post diagnosis of gestational diabetes, this can have a huge impact on development of cardiovascular risks in the future.”
Preeclampsia can occur at any time during the pregnancy but is extremely rare before 20 weeks of pregnancy and much more common in the third trimester. It can also occur at the time of delivery or within the 6 weeks post-partum timeframe, which is critical for the mother. If left untreated, preeclampsia can impair kidney and liver function, cause blood clotting problems, seizures and even maternal and infant death. In the U.S., preeclampsia causes 15 percent of premature births which is delivery before 37 weeks.
“Talk to your health care provider to learn how you can take extra care of your heart and reduce risk of developing heart disease,” says Dr. Davood. “Be sure to let your doctor know if you’ve experienced preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, or had premature deliveries.”