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Pre-Eclampsia Leads to Long Term Health Risks For Mom

Katlyn Joy |28, January 2015


Pre-eclampsia and hypertensive pregnancy disorders occur in 5 to 8 percent of all US pregnancies, and result in the deaths of approximately half a million babies worldwide each year. Pre-eclampsia is when a mother after the 20th week of pregnancy has elevated blood pressure and protein present in her urine. It can result in negative effects to the placenta, liver, kidneys, blood, brain and other organs during pregnancy. The only real treatment is delivering the baby.

Pre-eclampsia is such a concern that the 2012 opening ceremonies of the Annual Clinical Meeting of the America College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists started with an announcement of the serious push to end the disorder.

"I consider pre-eclampsia to be the most important medical complication of pregnancy. It can be life-threatening to mother and baby. Its treatment--which can include emergency early delivery--can be a frightening ordeal for women and their families," said James N. Martin, Jr, MD, president of The College.

Pre-eclampsia is the cause of 15 percent of premature births in the US. Understanding the proper diagnosis of pre-eclampsia is a major need today. However, we are beginning to realize the risks may not end with birth for mother and child.

Who is at Risk for Pre-Eclampsia?

Those with a higher likelihood of the disorder include:

  • Women pregnant for the first time
  • Those with a family history of the disorder
  • Those with a personal history of pre-eclampsia
  • You have a history of hypertension, lupus, kidney disease, diabetes or thrombophilia.
  • Mothers pregnant with multiples
  • Mothers older than 40 or younger than 18
  • Pregnancies resulting from IVF or assistive reproduction
  • Having a body mass index or BMI over 30
  • Mothers with auto-immune disorders
  • Mothers with sickle cell anemia or polycystic ovarian disease

What are the Possible Future Risks to Babies?

During birth, babies face serious risks including death. Babies may be low birth weight or born prematurely.

A study published in December, 2014 linked pre-eclampsia with a twice as likely incidence of autism spectrum disorders. The more severe the pre-eclampsia, the higher the risk of autism. The study looked at 1000 children born of pre-eclampsia affected pregnancies. The researchers also found more children from these pregnancies had lower cognitive functioning and other developmental delays.

A 2011 article in an obstetrical journal reported that intrauterine growth retardation due to under-nutrition in the womb may have long-term effects such as a higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. Another risk is for later kidney disease.

What are the Risks to Mothers After Pre-Eclampsia?

One of the better known risks to mothers following pregnancies affected by pre-eclampsia is a higher likelihood of having high blood pressure. In fact, a study published by the National Institutes of Health states that women with a history of pre-eclampsia have a higher prevalence of high blood pressure in their 50s compared to only 22 percent of women who did not suffer from the disorder.

Additionally, women with pre-eclampsia have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke later in life. Women may also have higher risks of renal disease. The rates of mortality from ischemic heart disease are much higher for women who have suffered from pre-eclampsia.

An initial study out of Norway raises questions about whether women who suffered from the disorder may have long term cognitive or memory issues. This is a preliminary study where more research is needed to know more hard facts.

What You Should Consider

If you have had pre-eclampsia in a previous pregnancy, talk to your physician if you are planning another pregnancy or are currently pregnant. You need to be especially watchful in subsequent pregnancies to get an early diagnosis if it should reappear.

If you had a pre-eclampsia history, maintain a healthy weight and get regular checkups. Let your doctor know of your history and have regular blood pressure checks. Should you have any other risk factors for heart disease besides weight, such as a family history of the disease or if you smoke, you should be especially vigilant. Women should take any symptoms of stroke or heart issues seriously and get help immediately.

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Guest Nov 2, 2017 09:42:11 AM ET

Is it possible for a mother who gave birth with pre-eclampsia at age of 21, to have a seizure disorder at the age of 28?

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