Pregnancy Characteristics and Women’s Cardiovascular Health

This is one of 26 chapters published in the Handbook of Life Course Health Development.


Abstract: Growing evidence indicates that women with a history of common pregnancy complications, including fetal growth restriction and preterm delivery (often combined as low birth weight), hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, and gestational diabetes are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease later in life. Here we review the associations of parity and these four pregnancy complications with cardiovascular morbidity and mortality and the role of cardiovascular risk factors before, during, and after pregnancy complications in explaining these associations. We explore the implications of these findings for research in life course health science and policy intended to avoid or mitigate these pregnancy-related effects. Findings suggest consistent and often strong associations of pregnancy complications with latent and future cardiovascular disease. Many pregnancy complications appear to be preceded by subclinical vascular and metabolic dysfunction, suggesting that the complications may be useful markers of latent high-risk cardiovascular trajectories. Pregnancy complications may be useful in identifying high-risk women, at a relatively early stage in their life course for screening, prevention, and treatment of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of morbidity and mortality among women.



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