Pregnancy is a big event in a woman’s life.
Physical and mental health during pregnancy can have a long-term influence on the woman’s health later in life.
Recent studies have found that health conditions during pregnancy could affect a woman’s heart functions after giving birth.
For example, one study from Western Sydney University shows that gestational diabetes, or diabetes during pregnancy, could harm the mom’s heart after birth.
Gestational diabetes occurs when high blood glucose levels are detected for the first time during pregnancy. Most commonly, the disease is only related to pregnancy.
This is because pregnancy hormones reduce insulin action and increase insulin demand, in a similar way to type 2 diabetes.
Usually after the baby is born, hormones and blood glucose levels go back to normal.
The researchers found that if the condition was not well managed in the study participants, it could have ongoing effects and increase the risks of many complications, including high blood pressure, a big risk factor of heart disease and stroke.
In addition, women with gestational diabetes also had 7 times of the risk for type 2 diabetes compared with women who didn’t have the disease during pregnancy.
Type 2 diabetes is also a big risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Another study from Harvard University shows that preeclampsia and gestational hypertension, other two common conditions in pregnancy, could increase a woman’s heart disease risk after giving birth.
The two conditions involve high blood pressure that develops for the first time during pregnancy and returns to normal after delivery.
The researchers found that women who had high blood pressure during their first pregnancy were more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol after the pregnancy.
Moreover, the risk factors for cardiovascular disease emerged shortly after pregnancy and persisted for decades.
The researchers suggest that women who experience preeclampsia or gestational hypertension should tell their doctor and adopt a heart healthy diet and lifestyle.
A third study from Texas Tech University finds that obesity could harm a woman’s heart health during and after pregnancy.
Obesity during pregnancy could increase risk of preeclampsia and leaves women more prone to high blood pressure and heart disease later in life.
The researchers found that obese pregnant women in the study had less effective heart pumping functions and higher blood pressure compared with women with normal weight.
The team suggests that obese patients will be more likely to deteriorate during pregnancy. For example, their blood pressure becomes higher, and their heart functions are lower.
They also suggest that regular prenatal care, including blood pressure measurements and urine tests, are important to detect preeclampsia early.
Source: The Conversation, American Heart Association, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
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