Pregnancy-Associated High Blood Pressure with Preterm Delivery Associated with Future Metabolic Syndrome

Media Contact: Kathy Fackelmann,, 202-994-8354

WASHINGTON, DC and SAN DIEGO (February 2, 2015)— A study to be presented February 5 at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s annual meeting held in San Diego suggests that women who develop high blood pressure during pregnancy and then deliver preterm may be at risk—years later—of developing metabolic syndrome, a cluster of cardiovascular and metabolic abnormalities. The study, which was conducted by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units (MFMU) Network, including researchers at the Biostatistics Center and the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, suggests that these women might be healthy before pregnancy, but that adverse pregnancy outcomes may lead to a higher risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic abnormalities five to ten years later.

The MFMU Network studied 825 pregnant women who were healthy before pregnancy, but had abnormal glucose values during pregnancy, including some also suffering from pregnancy-associated hypertension or high blood pressure that was not present before pregnancy. The women in the study delivered and were followed for up to ten years to see if they showed signs of metabolic syndrome, a group of cardiovascular and metabolic factors like high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels and high waist circumference. The researchers discovered that the frequency of metabolic syndrome was highest in women who had pregnancy associated hypertension and delivered prematurely.

“These findings support the concept of pregnancy as a window to future health. Preeclampsia and other forms of gestational high blood pressure that develop early in pregnancy or occur with preterm delivery might unmask a woman’s predisposition to cardiovascular and metabolic dysfunction,” says lead author Madeline Murguia Rice, PhD, an associate research professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the Biostatistics Center and the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University. “The American Heart Association has already named preeclampsia, gestational hypertension and gestational diabetes mellitus as female-specific cardiovascular risk factors, and our results provide further support that these women may be candidates for primary cardiovascular prevention and that physicians should continue to monitor and counsel these women.”