Complications of pregnancy, particularly pre-eclampsia (PET) and intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR) have been associated with future maternal cardiovascular disease (CVD). Pre-eclampsia, characterised by insulin resistance, widespread endothelial damage and dysfunction, coagulation defects and increased systemic inflammatory response, shares many risk factors with CVD. This review describes the pathology of PET and the maternal metabolic response and discusses the possible underlying mechanisms common to CVD and PET. The contributions of pre-existing risk factors and of the exaggerated atherogenic-like response seen in PET persisting post-partum to future CVD are considered. The potential for interventions based on early assessment of cardiovascular risk is addressed. We conclude that despite the low immediate cardiovascular risk in a population of young women, a pregnancy with multiple complications including PET, premature delivery and IUGR, carries a seven-fold additive risk of future disease. These women may be an appropriate cohort for CVD risk screening and for possible intervention.
Copyright 2004 Elsevier Ireland Ltd