If you've had high blood pressure – including gestational hypertension or preeclampsia – gestational diabetes, or delivered a baby earlier than 37 weeks, listen up.
Although these conditions often disappear after having a baby, simply experiencing them puts you at much greater risk of heart disease or stroke in the next 10 years. Here are steps you can take:
A host of changes occur when you are pregnant. For example:
Because of all these changes – and a growing baby – you may tire more easily or feel short of breath or lightheaded when doing things that require physical effort or when talking.
In addition, hormonal and metabolic changes affect how blood sugar levels are regulated. Changes in how your body forms clots needed to prevent excessive bleeding after delivery make pregnant women more prone to develop blood clots in the legs (called deep vein thrombosis).
For some women, pregnancy can lead to (mostly temporary) problems that may make heart disease or stroke more likely in the future. These conditions are sometimes called "adverse pregnancy outcomes."
Researchers don't yet know whether pregnancy causes these issues or if a woman's predisposition to heart problems first shows itself during pregnancy.
But more awareness and action is needed to better meet the health needs of women with these conditions. Many experts suggest these women should be screened for cardiovascular disease over time and given tips on heart-healthy living.