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New study shows pre-eclampsia risk remains years later

Photo: Pre-eclampsia risk remains years later
Pregnant mothers with pre-eclampsia may encounter health challenges later in life, a new study suggests.

The pregnancy complication pre-eclampsia poses a risk to a mother's heart that can exist for decades, a US study says.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have found women with a history of pre-eclampsia are more likely to face atherosclerosis - a hardening and narrowing of the arteries.

"We've found that pre-eclampsia continues to follow mothers long after the birth of their child," said Professor Vesna Garovic at the Mayo Clinic's 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," Prof Garovic said.
Women with pre-eclampsia have high blood pressure, which typically shows 20 weeks into the pregnancy.

It's estimated between five to 10 per cent of all pregnancies in Australia will be impacted by the condition.

Using health records from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, the research team identified 40 post-menopausal women with histories of pre-eclampsia and 40 women with normal 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 normal blood pressure.

The finding suggests pre-eclampsia patients should monitored over the longer term.

"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," Prof Garovic said.

"This makes pre-eclampsia a pregnancy complication that extends well beyond the pregnancy itself."

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