High blood pressure conditions during pregnancy increase cardiovascular disease risk 10 years later

Women who developed hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP), which include preeclampsia and gestational hypertension, during pregnancy were more than twice as likely to develop hypertension a decade later compared to those who did not have HDP during pregnancy, according to researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine. The study included 130 women, 85 percent of whom self-identified as Black. The results appeared in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Pregnant person in doctor's office holding belly

HDPs are serious conditions that affect up to 20 percent of all pregnancies, and they can carry serious risks for mother and baby, including preterm birth, organ damage, and a greater chance of cardiovascular disease later in life. These disorders are particularly common in communities of color, most notably among Black women.

“Pregnancy can often be a stress test for future health,” says lead author Lisa Levine, the Michael T. Mennuti, MD, Associate Professor in Reproductive Health, chief of Maternal Fetal Medicine, and co-director of the Pregnancy and Heart Disease Program at Penn Medicine. “Many complications of pregnancy, such as HDP and preterm birth, are associated with increased risks later in life. We knew from epidemiologic data that patients who have had high blood pressure in pregnancy (or HDP) are at higher risk of heart disease later in life, but it had not been evaluated to this extent at the 10-year mark. We looked at this question in a group of people, largely Black women, who are at a higher risk of both HDP and heart disease.”

It is well established that cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk increases for women 20 to 30 years after they experience an HDP, but relatively little was known about risks just 10 years after pregnancy, when patients are still relatively young and may not yet be experiencing cardiovascular symptoms.

Read more at Penn Medicine News.