December 01, 2019

Pregnancy and future health

Complications and problems in later life

Heart disease and strokes account for one-third of deaths in women age 65 and older. Traditional risk factors for these health problems have been known for decades, including high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, lack of exercise and smoking.

However, researchers and doctors have recently focused their attention on a different risk factor — women's health during pregnancy years even decades earlier. In short, certain complications of pregnancy have been associated with a variety of health problems later in life, most of them related to cardiovascularrelated outcomes such as heart disease and stroke.

Past pregnancies

Pregnancy issues that can predict health problems later in life include:

  • Gestational diabetes — This type of diabetes occurs only during pregnancy. It's more common in women who are overweight, who are age 25 and up, and who have certain ethnic backgrounds, including Hispanic, African American, Native American, Asian or Pacific Islander.

    Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause a baby to grow too large, which increases the risk of problems during delivery, including increased risk of cesarean delivery.

  • Preeclampsia — This is a type of high blood pressure that can develop during pregnancy in any woman, but is more common in mothers of multiples, first pregnancies and women over 35. Signs and symptoms of preeclampsia include rapid weight gain, headaches, abdominal pain and vison problems.

    Left untreated, preeclampsia can result in eclampsia, a severe...