• By Kelly Reller

Mothers with history of pre-eclampsia may encounter cardiovascular challenges later in life

August 25, 2017

Pregnant woman has blood pressure reading

ROCHESTER, Minn. – A new study has found that a condition that threatens the lives of some pregnant women and the fetus may continue to put the mother at risk later in life.

Mayo Clinic researchers found that women with a history of pre-eclampsia are more likely to face atherosclerosis – hardening and narrowing of the arteries – decades after their pregnancy. The findings are published in the September issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Pre-eclampsia – a condition in pregnant women commonly characterized by high blood pressure – typically shows itself 20 weeks into the pregnancy, and can occur suddenly or develop slowly. The complication poses a concern to the mother and fetus, and affects between 2 and 7 percent of pregnancies.

“We’ve found that pre-eclampsia continues to follow mothers long after the birth of their child,” says Vesna Garovic, M.D., Ph.D., Mayo Clinic Division of Nephrology and Hypertension. “The good news is that we can use these findings to apply earlier interventions for risk factors before cardiovascular disease presents.”

Using health records from the Rochester Epidemiology Project – a collaboration of southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin health care facilities – the research team identified 40 postmenopausal women with histories of pre-eclampsia and 40 women with normotensive – or normal blood pressure – pregnancy histories.

Carotid artery intima-media thickness, or the thickness of the artery walls, was measured in addition to blood tests.  The artery wall thickness of women with a history of pre-eclampsia was significantly greater than those with normotensive pregnancies. These findings were echoed in a study of 10 texts.

“Even without a history of cardiovascular events, women who’ve had pre-eclampsic pregnancies are facing a higher risk of atherosclerosis decades later during their postmenopausal years,” says Dr. Garovic. “This makes pre-eclampsia a pregnancy complication that extends well beyond the pregnancy itself.”

Further study is needed on women with pre-eclampsia histories, according to Dr. Garovic, and that should continue to follow women late into life, where further complications may become apparent.

Other members of the research team are:

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About Mayo Clinic Proceedings
Mayo Clinic Proceedings is a monthly peer-reviewed medical journal that publishes original articles and reviews dealing with clinical and laboratory medicine, clinical research, basic science research, and clinical epidemiology. Mayo Clinic Proceedings is sponsored by Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research as part of its commitment to physician education. It publishes submissions from authors worldwide. The journal has been published for more than 80 years and has a circulation of 130,000. Articles are available at mayoclinicproceedings.org.

About the Rochester Epidemiology Project
The Rochester Epidemiology Project is a collaboration of clinics, hospitals, and other medical and dental care facilities in southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Founded by Mayo Clinic and Olmsted Medical Center in 1966 in Olmsted County, Minnesota, the collaboration stretches across 27 counties. Olmsted County Public Health Services is its first public health member. This collaboration and sharing of medical information makes this area of Minnesota and Wisconsin one of the few places where true population-based research can be accomplished. For more information about the Rochester Epidemiology Project, visit the Rochester Epidemiology Project website.

About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to clinical practice, education and research, providing expert, comprehensive care to everyone who needs healing. For more information, visit mayoclinic.org/about-mayo-clinic or newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org.

MEDIA CONTACT
Kelly Reller, Mayo Clinic Public Affairs, 507-284-5005, newsbureau@mayo.edu

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