Long-term Consequences of Pre-Eclampsia

Posted On: January 15, 2016 By Andrei Rebarber, MD

Previously, it was stated that once the baby was delivered, pre-eclampsia would be resolved and generally there were no long-term sequelae for the mother. However, recent literature suggests that this is not true. Although doctors still have a far way to go to fully understand these consequences, it has been recognized that pre-eclampsia may be a sentinel event identifying women at risk of other health complications much, much later on in life.

When we see patients at their post-partum visit who have a history of pre-eclampsia, we counsel them to  maintain regular medical appointments. This is because of their lifelong risk for developing hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Long-term medical care is always important, but women with a history of pre-eclampsia should be more aware of their risk for disease later on in life.

Recently, doctors have started to discuss with patients the lifelong risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and a  shortened life expectancy after pre-eclampsia pregnancy. Lifestyle modifications may help ameliorate some of these risk factors. It is not believed that the pre-eclampsia is the cause of the vascular injury, it’s that the pregnancy unmasks an underlying predisposition to vascular inflammation.

In the most recent studies, data suggests that a history of pre-eclampsia can be a greater risk for cardiovascular when compared to smoking. So it is necessary to pay close attention to cardiovascular health, whether it is through lifestyle modifications such as: diet, exercise, or tighter control of lipid profiles. Furthermore, it is also important to understand that as women get older, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the general population. Unmasking the population that is at a greatest risk may allow clinicians to provide increased screening in this population, and provide earlier preventative strategies and even long-term treatments.

It is also necessary to inform pre-eclampsia patients about their recurrence in subsequent pregnancies. They actually have a higher incidence in their next pregnancy to develop pre-eclampsia, particularly if the event occurred in the preterm period. In women at risk of preeclampsia, vigilance during the prenatal period, preconception counseling, and preventative management such as use of a baby aspirin appear to be the best current options for optimum health during and after pregnancy.

Carnegie Imaging for Women blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!

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