Untreated hypertension in pregnancy linked to heart disease

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Researchers in Britain said high blood pressure during pregnancy increases a mother’s risk for future cardiovascular disease and death.

According to the findings of a new study published in ‘Circulation,’ if left untreated, hypertension in pregnancy or pre-eclampsia could lead to life-threatening complications in both mothers and infants.

Pre-eclampsia is a condition that only occurs in pregnancy – typically after 20 weeks – and affects two to eight in 100 women. It is diagnosed through a combination of hypertension (raised blood pressure) and proteinuria in pregnancy (the presence of protein in your urine).

One of the study’s senior authors, Fergus P. McCarthy, said: “We saw these differences in outcomes as early as one year after the pregnancy.”

However, McCarthy, who is a consultant obstetrician at the Cork University Maternity Hospital in Ireland, advised: “Any woman affected by hypertension during pregnancy should consult with her physician after she delivers and ensure that she has adequate medical follow-up.”

The findings of this study may be particularly useful for maternal patients in Nigeria, where maternal mortality ratio is high and estimated at 546 deaths per 100,000 live births, (amounting to 40,000 pregnancy-related deaths annually).

Births attended by skilled health staff in Nigeria was reported at 35.2 per cent in 2013, according to the World Bank collection of development indicators. Many pregnant women in this environment deliver at home while unskilled professionals deliver the babies of some due to poverty and cultural practices. Under unskilled care, mothers suffering pre-eclampsia may not get needed medical care and follow-up required for their safety and that of their babies.

In the current study, the researchers found 149,712 cases of pre-eclampsia in 1.3 million pregnancies over a 20-year period and followed all the women for an average of nine years after they gave birth.

“Over that time, there were 18,624 first-time cardiovascular events, 65 per cent of them in women under 40,” reported the ‘The New York Times’.

According to the report, compared with women who did not have pre-eclampsia, those who did were at higher risk for 12 cardiovascular disorders.

Similarly, they had a 90 per cent increased risk for stroke, more than double the risk for heart failure, and two-and-a-half times the risk for heart attack.

Furthermore, they were more than four times as likely to have chronic hypertension, and twice as likely as those without pre-eclampsia to die of cardiovascular disease.
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