Preterm pregnancies linked to increased risk of high blood pressure in women

A pregnant woman meets with her doctor in a medical setting.

Women who have a preterm pregnancy have a higher associated risk for developing high blood pressure, according to a retrospective review of more than 2 million women in Sweden. The study published in JAMA Cardiology and was partially supported by NHLBI. 

After assessing the health records of women who gave birth between 1973-2015, researchers found that more than 350,000 women, 16% of the study, later developed high blood pressure. Upon further analysis of the data, researchers found women who delivered a child before 37 weeks had a 1.6 times greater chance of developing high blood pressure within a 10-year period compared to women who had a full-term pregnancy. For women who delivered a child between 22-27 weeks of gestation, an extremely preterm pregnancy, their associated risk for developing high blood pressure doubled. And while the link between women who had a preterm pregnancy and who later developed high blood pressure was most significant within a decade of giving birth, this association remained for more than 40 years (the duration of the study). Therefore, the researchers conclude that women who have a preterm pregnancy appear to have a lifelong risk of developing high blood pressure. More research, and in different populations, is necessary to understand these associations.

The authors also note that women who had a preterm pregnancy could benefit from earlier preventive care during subsequent pregnancies and from long-term monitoring and care to reduce the risks for cardiovascular disease.