Pregnancy Complications May Lead to Extended Health Challenges for Years

Women who encounter common pregnancy problems may have an increased risk of early mortality for decades, according to new research.

In the largest such study to date, “women who experienced any of five major adverse pregnancy outcomes had increased mortality risks that remained elevated more than 40 years later,” stated a team led by Dr. Casey Crump from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in Houston.

Pregnancy Complications May Lead to Extended Health Challenges for Years

The team’s findings were published on Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

According to Crump’s research, “pregnancy has been considered a ‘natural stress test’ that may yield valuable information for understanding [women’s] future health risks.”

Indeed, factors that increase the likelihood of pregnancy problems, such as smoking, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, can boost general health risks.

The Texas researchers evaluated data from nearly 2 million Swedish women who delivered single babies between 1973 and 2015. They then tracked the women’s health until 2023, when their average age was 52.

The scientists discovered that a diagnosis of gestational diabetes (diabetes that develops while pregnant) increased a woman’s chances of dying by 52% across the study period, compared to women who had no history of this condition.

Similarly, the study discovered that premature delivery was associated with a 41% higher chance of early death while having an underweight baby was associated with a 30% increased risk.

Preeclampsia, a hazardous elevation in blood pressure during pregnancy, was also linked to a 13% increase in the risk of premature mortality, according to the researchers.

Pregnancy Complications May Lead to Extended Health Challenges for Years

All of these hazards “remained elevated even 30 to 46 years after delivery,” according to Crump’s study.

The study authors stated that “nearly 30% of all women experience an adverse pregnancy outcome during their reproductive years,” so the findings may be significant for many women.

Pregnancy problems appear to increase the chance of premature death for a variety of reasons.

For example, experiencing any of the issues increased a woman’s risk of cardiovascular death by 1.5 to 2.5 times when compared to women who did not have such histories, according to the study.

Women who gave birth prematurely or with underweight kids were more than twice as likely to die from diabetes or respiratory disorders, and their chances of dying from cancer increased by up to 20%.

Having multiple types of complications during a pregnancy increases the risks even more.

According to the study, women who had two or three such issues had a 56% and 84% higher risk of dying early than women who had healthy pregnancies.

All of this means that primary care doctors should be aware of any pregnancy-related concerns their patients face. According to the researchers, these women may then undergo “early preventive actions” that reduce their risk of sickness and lengthen their lives.


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