New study finds obesity in pregnancy raises risk of future heart disease
The link between maternal obesity and the long-term risk of cardiovascular disease has been further solidified by new research findings. A study led by Northwestern University in the United States has shone a light on the significant health risks faced by women who enter pregnancy with obesity.
The research team discovered that women with obesity before conception are more susceptible to complications during pregnancy than their counterparts with healthier pre-pregnancy weights. These complications include conditions like pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, which have previously been associated with an increased risk of heart disease later in life.
The study’s principal investigator, Dr. Sadiya Khan, emphasised that while these pregnancy-related issues can indeed signal future cardiovascular problems, they are not the underlying cause of heart disease. Instead, they merely highlight pre-existing risk factors that become apparent during the metabolic and physical demands of pregnancy.
To reach these conclusions, the researchers analysed health data from 4,216 women who were giving birth for the first time. They observed that those with higher body mass indices (BMIs) in the first trimester had an elevated risk of developing hypertensive disorders during pregnancy than those with BMIs within the normal range.
Dr. Khan explained that the study approached pregnancy as a ‘natural stress test’ for the heart, which could expose pre-existing health concerns. The implications of these findings underscore the importance of addressing pre-pregnancy obesity with proactive health interventions rather than waiting for cardiovascular events to occur.
The research team is advocating for healthcare providers to emphasise the importance of a nutritious diet and regular physical activity during prenatal visits. While weight loss is not recommended during pregnancy, guidance and support for maintaining an appropriate weight gain during this period are crucial.
The study also presented quantitative insights, revealing that among the participants, 4% had gestational diabetes and 15% encountered complications due to high blood pressure.
These findings, which align with prior research advocating for weight management during pregnancy through diet and exercise, have been published in the journal Circulation Research, providing valuable insights for expectant mothers and healthcare professionals alike.