Obesity during pregnancy associated with future cardiovascular disease, research shows

Women who become obese during pregnancy are at risk of developing heart disease in the future, latest evidence reveals.

Researchers from Northwestern University in America have found that women who are obese prior to getting pregnant are more likely to experience health complications during their pregnancy compared to those at a lower weight before.

Previous studies have found that pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes is linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

First author Dr Sadiya Khan said: “We demonstrate, for the first time, that adverse pregnancy outcomes are primarily indicators – and not the root cause – of future heart health. This means that pregnancy just reveals the risk for heart disease that is already there.”

During the study, the team of scientists reviewed the health outcomes of 4,216 first-time mothers.

They found that the women with an above average BMI in their first trimester were more likely to develop hypertensive disorders of pregnancy compared to those with a normal BMI.

Dr Khan noted: “Our hypothesis was that it may be that the pregnancy complications are unmasking these things since, as we know, pregnancy is a natural stress test for the heart.

“These findings are important because if pre-pregnancy obesity is the culprit or cause of risk, we should be targeting this with interventions.”

She added: “We don’t want to just wait until people have these cardiovascular events; we want to stop them from happening.”

Dr Khan is now urging clinicians to promote the benefits of a good diet and exercise regime during prenatal appointments.

She said: “We definitely do not want to recommend weight loss during pregnancy but do want to recommend counselling and monitoring for appropriate gestational weight gain. It is one of the few times in life that you are seeing the doctor frequently while you’re healthy.”

A healthy diet and regularly exercising can help women manage their weight during pregnancy, prior research has reported.

According to the results, four per cent of the participants had gestational diabetes, while 15% experienced a health problem related to having high blood pressure.

Read the study in the journal Circulation Research.

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