For optimal heart health, pre-pregnancy health is key

A person holds their hands around their pregnant belly in a heart shape.

Having obesity before and during early pregnancy appears to be a strong indicator of risk for developing future cardiovascular disease risk factors, like having high blood pressure, after pregnancy. Obesity before and during early pregnancy was also significantly linked with adverse outcomes during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes, according to an NHLBI-supported study published in Circulation Research

Researchers have known that obesity is a risk factor for both cardiovascular disease and pregnancy complications related to blood pressure. However, they did not know which factors – obesity or the pregnancy complications – played larger roles in influencing a person’s likelihood for developing cardiovascular disease risk factors a few years after pregnancy. 

This nuMoM2b Heart Health Study found that while having adverse pregnancy outcomes was linked with increased cardiovascular disease risks during pregnancy, the complications accounted for a small percentage of increased cardiovascular disease risks in the years following pregnancy for people with obesity. Therefore, the research points to the important role that pre-pregnancy health has in supporting optimal health outcomes during and after pregnancy.