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Pregnancy Complications May Signal Future Heart Troubles

Pregnancy is a natural stress test on the heart. Why? As soon as a woman becomes pregnant, many changes begin in the body, including a dramatic rise in blood flow and extra workload on the heart. These are all healthy and normal parts of helping to nourish the growing baby, and most moms-to-be won't have any heart troubles during pregnancy.

But for a growing number of women, pregnancy may bring about new – often temporary – spikes in blood pressure or blood sugar levels.

  • High blood pressure in pregnancy, also referred to as hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, may be pregnancy-induced high blood pressure (gestational hypertension), preeclampsia, or eclampsia. It also can be due to chronic high blood pressure.
  • Elevated blood sugar during pregnancy, specifically if you had gestational diabetes, increases your risk for heart disease and diabetes as well.

These conditions typically return to pre-pregnancy levels soon after childbirth. But having them at all has been linked to a greater chance of developing heart disease, future high blood pressure and diabetes later in life.

In addition, it seems preterm birth (having a baby before 37 weeks of pregnancy) may be a red flag for future heart issues and stroke. Also, if you delivered a small baby, known as small for gestational age (in the lowest 10th percentile), you are at a greater risk for heart disease as well. 

Learn more about High Blood Pressure and Preeclampsia, Gestational Diabetes, Preterm Birth and what you can do. Also, find a list of Questions to Ask your health care team.