Certain pregnancy complications could continue to impact a mama’s health long after giving birth. A new scientific statement from the American Heart Association (AHA) says six conditions raise a pregnant person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life.
That statement was published in Circulation, the AHA’s medical journal. It says that pregnant individuals who experienced any of the six conditions are more likely to experience cardiovascular disease (CVD) later on in life compared to those who didn’t experience any pregnancy complications. The conditions include:
- high blood pressure
- gestational diabetes
- small-for-gestational-age delivery
- preterm delivery,
- placental abruption
- pregnancy loss
Each condition raised the risk for CVD anywhere from about 50% to more than 80%.
The AHA also says that people who are Black, Hispanic and Asian are more likely to experience these pregnancy conditions, as well as an elevated risk for heart disease. It’s calling for more studies to help understand why, and what can be done to change it.
A couple of the conditions—high blood pressure in pregnancy as well as pre-term delivery—were also associated with an increased risk for strokes later in life.
Six pregnancy complications are among red flags for heart disease later in life
— American Heart News (@HeartNews)
These figures may be scary, but the AHA noted that there’s a lot that can be done to lower your CVD risk, before, during and after pregnancy. One simple way includes breastfeeding, which the AHA explained lowers the risk for heart disease as well as Type-2 diabetes. Basic lifestyle changes can help, too.
“Adopting a heart healthy diet, healthy sleep patterns and increasing physical activity among women experiencing adverse pregnancy outcomes, should start during pregnancy and continue in post-partum and through the rest of the patient’s lifespan,” said Nisha Parikh, a doctor and associate professor of medicine in the cardiovascular division at the University of California at San Francisco who helped author the statement.
The AHA is also calling for more postpartum care, and care that specifically screens for heart disease risk factors. It says the postpartum period is “critical time” for identifying future health risks, and provides a hugely important window of opportunity to improve a pregnant person’s future health trajectory.
If you have experienced or are experiencing any of these conditions, consider talking with your doctor about your heart health—knowing your risk is the first step in helping to lower it.