Preeclampsia and the Risk of Future Vascular Disease and Mortality: A Review

J Midwifery Womens Health. 2016 May;61(3):315-24. doi: 10.1111/jmwh.12469. Epub 2016 May 6.


Introduction: Preeclampsia increases a woman's long-term risk of vascular disease and/or death including chronic hypertension, myocardial infarction, heart failure, stroke, and venous thromboembolism. The literature suggests that maternity care providers may be unaware of this association.

Methods: A database search was conducted examining the long-term effects of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy using MEDLINE, Scopus, CINAHL, ISI Web of Knowledge, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Inclusion criteria were: 1) English language, 2) peer-reviewed journals, 3) January 2000 to July 2015, 4) systematic reviews with or without meta-analyses, and 5) studies that addressed the relationship between hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and vascular disease such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and cerebrovascular diseases.

Results: Three systematic reviews with meta-analysis qualified for this review. They represented 48 unique studies from 20 countries and included a total of 3,598,601 women. Preeclampsia was associated with a 3-fold increased risk for developing chronic hypertension. Compared with normotensive women, those with preeclampsia experienced double the risk, or more, for CVD or CVD-related mortality. Preeclampsia was also associated with approximately double the risk for fatal or nonfatal stroke.

Discussion: Preeclampsia is associated with an increased risk for future chronic hypertension, CVD, cerebrovascular disease, and death. While evidence shows that women with cardiac risk factors may have a higher chance of developing preeclampsia, many women with preeclampsia have no CVD risk factors. Measures to prevent preeclampsia such as calcium supplementation for women with low calcium intake and low-dose aspirin for women with a history of more than one incident of preeclampsia or a preterm birth associated with preeclampsia are supported by evidence. Reduction of modifiable risks associated with CVD before, during, and after pregnancy is recommended. All care providers and women should be educated regarding these risks and the importance of pregnancy history to future health.

Keywords: obstetric complications; patient education; postpartum care; preventative health care; primary care; systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pre-Eclampsia* / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors