Metabolic profiling of pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia: A longitudinal study

Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2023 Mar;102(3):334-343. doi: 10.1111/aogs.14505. Epub 2023 Jan 16.


Introduction: Preeclampsia is associated with maternal metabolic disturbances, but longitudinal studies with comprehensive metabolic profiling are lacking. We aimed to determine metabolic profiles across gestation in women who developed preeclampsia compared with women with healthy pregnancies. We also explored the respective effects of body mass index (BMI) and preeclampsia on various metabolic measures.

Material and methods: We measured 91 metabolites by high-throughput nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy at four time points (visits) during pregnancy (weeks 14-16, 22-24, 30-32 and 36-38). Samples were taken from a Norwegian pregnancy cohort. We fitted a linear regression model for each metabolic measure to compare women who developed preeclampsia (n = 38) and healthy controls (n = 70).

Results: Among women who developed preeclampsia, 92% gave birth after 34 weeks of gestation. Compared to women with healthy pregnancies, women who developed preeclampsia had higher levels of several lipid-related metabolites at visit 1, whereas fewer differences were observed at visit 2. At visit 3, the pattern from visit 1 reappeared. At visit 4 the differences were larger in most subgroups of very-low-density lipoprotein particles, the smallest high-density lipoprotein, total lipids and triglycerides. Total fatty acids were also increased, of which monounsaturated fatty acids and saturated fatty acids showed more pronounced differences. Concentration of glycine tended to be lower in pregnancies with preeclampsia until visit 3, although this was not significant after correction for multiple testing. After adjustment for age, BMI, parity and gestational weight gain, all significant differences were attenuated at visits 1 and 2. The estimates were less affected by adjustment at visits 3 and 4.

Conclusions: In early pregnancy, the metabolic differences between preeclamptic and healthy pregnancies were primarily driven by maternal BMI, probably representing the women's pre-pregnancy metabolic status. In early third trimester, several weeks before clinical manifestation, the differences were less influenced by BMI, indicating preeclampsia-specific changes. Near term, women with preeclampsia developed an atherogenic metabolic profile, including elevated total lipids, very-low-density lipoprotein, triglycerides, and total fatty acids.

Keywords: high-risk pregnancy; hypertension in pregnancy; molecular biology; preeclampsia.

MeSH terms

  • Fatty Acids
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipoproteins, VLDL
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Pre-Eclampsia*
  • Pregnancy
  • Triglycerides


  • Fatty Acids
  • Lipoproteins, VLDL
  • Triglycerides