Pregnancy as a window to future health: maternal placental syndromes and short-term cardiovascular outcomes

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2016 Oct;215(4):484.e1-484.e14. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2016.05.047. Epub 2016 Jun 2.


Background: Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among women. Identifying risk factors for future cardiovascular disease may lead to earlier lifestyle modifications and disease prevention. Additionally, interpregnancy development of cardiovascular disease can lead to increased perinatal morbidity in subsequent pregnancies. Identification and implementation of interventions in the short term (within 5 years of first pregnancy) may decrease morbidity in subsequent pregnancies.

Objective: We identified the short-term risk (within 5 years of first pregnancy) of cardiovascular disease among women who experienced a maternal placental syndrome, as well as preterm birth and/or delivered a small-for-gestational-age infant.

Study design: We conducted a retrospective cohort study using a population-based, clinically enhanced database of women in the state of Florida. Nulliparous women and girls aged 15-49 years experiencing their first delivery during the study time period with no prepregnancy history of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, or heart or renal disease were included in the study. The risk of subsequent cardiovascular disease was compared among women who did and did not experience a placental syndrome during their first pregnancy. Risk was then reassessed among women with placental syndrome and preterm birth or delivering a small-for-gestational-age infant vs those without these adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Results: The final study population was 302,686 women and girls. Median follow-up time for each patient was 4.9 years. The unadjusted rate of subsequent cardiovascular disease among women and girls with any placental syndrome (11.8 per 1000 women) was 39% higher than the rate among women and girls without a placental syndrome (8.5 per 1000 women). Even after adjusting for sociodemographic factors, preexisting conditions, and clinical and behavioral conditions associated with the current pregnancy, women and girls with any placental syndrome experienced a 19% increased risk of cardiovascular disease (hazard ratio, 1.19; 95% confidence interval, 1.07-1.32). Women and girls with >1 placental syndrome had the highest cardiovascular disease risk (hazard ratio, 1.43; 95% confidence interval, 1.20-1.70), followed by those with eclampsia/preeclampsia alone (hazard ratio, 1.42; 95% confidence interval, 1.14-1.76). When placental syndrome was combined with preterm birth and/or small for gestational age, the adjusted risk of cardiovascular disease increased 45% (95% confidence interval, 1.24-1.71). Women and girls with placental syndrome who then developed cardiovascular disease experienced a 5-fold increase in health care-related costs during follow-up, compared to those who did not develop cardiovascular disease.

Conclusion: Women and girls experiencing placental syndromes and preterm birth or small-for-gestational-age infant are at increased risk of subsequent cardiovascular disease in short-term follow-up. Strategies to identify and improve cardiovascular disease risk in the postpartum period may improve future heart disease outcomes.

Keywords: cardiovascular disease; preeclampsia; preterm birth; small for gestational age.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Florida
  • Gestational Age
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Small for Gestational Age / physiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Placenta Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pre-Eclampsia / physiopathology
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth / physiopathology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult