Physicians study ways to screen people at risk for high blood pressure during and after pregnancy

A woman who is pregnant has her blood pressure taken by a doctor.

Researchers are studying ways urine tests could be used to identify people at increased risk for developing a dangerous form of high blood pressure during pregnancy called preeclampsia. Preeclampsia occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy and is associated with increased risks for pregnancy complications and future cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks, later in life. The findings of their research, which showed how nine markers associated with preeclampsia could be used in urine screenings, published in Patterns.

A separate group of researchers is also studying how to identify and support women at increased risk for developing high blood pressure after pregnancy. Through a paper published in Hypertension, they assessed the health outcomes of 2,467 patients who gave birth at Boston Medical Center and did not have a history of high blood pressure. Among these patients, 298, 12%, developed high blood pressure within a year after giving birth. Patients ages 35 or older, who had a caesarean section, or who smoked or used to smoke had greater associated risks for developing high blood pressure. The researchers recommend finding ways to stay connected with and monitor high-risk patients after pregnancy to mitigate risks for future cardiovascular events, including heart failure and stroke.

Both studies were partially supported by NHLBI. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences provided partial support for the preeclampsia research published in Patterns.