Certain pregnancy complications linked to increased risks for premature death

A woman who is pregnant has her blood pressure taken in a medical setting.

Certain pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, a dangerous rise in blood pressure after 20 weeks of pregnancy, have been linked to increased risks for cardiovascular disease years later. Now, a review of more than 2 million women who gave birth in Sweden found that 30% of participants had at least one of five adverse outcomes during pregnancy, which were linked to increased risks for overall premature death and measured for up to 46 years after delivery. 

Through this review, the researchers assessed data from women who had one of five types of adverse pregnancy outcomes: a preterm birth, a baby born with a small birthweight, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, or other complications related to high blood pressure during pregnancy. These outcomes were compared to the incidence of overall death, which occurred among 4% of participants. The adverse outcomes were associated with a 1.1-1.5-times increased risk for premature death. 

Causes of death varied and included dying from cardiovascular disease, respiratory conditions, diabetes, and cancer. Through additional analyses, the researchers found that all five adverse pregnancy outcomes were associated with a 1.5-2.5-times increased likelihood for premature death from cardiovascular disease compared to participants who did not have one of the adverse pregnancy outcomes. The authors note the research underscores the importance of early interventions to offset risks for pregnancy complications and supports long-term strategies for disease prevention. 

The study published in JAMA Internal Medicine and was partially supported by NHLBI.