Before and between pregnancies may be key to lowering preeclampsia risks

Aug. 27, 2021

In a new study, a multidisciplinary team of researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine has found that the periods before pregnancy and in between pregnancies are key times to address preeclampsia risk factors like obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.

Preeclampsia — a complication that occurs in about 1 in every 25 pregnancies in the United States — is characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to an organ system, most often the liver or kidneys. It usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure had previously been normal.

In their study, which was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the researchers statistically compared two sets of women (a total of 618 women) who were participating in the Boston Birth Cohort, an ongoing collaboration between the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Boston University.

Since 1998, the cohort has looked at a broad array of early life factors and their effects on pregnancy, infancy and child health outcomes.

The team found that obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and preterm birth were common factors in women who had preeclampsia during both first and second pregnancies or developed the condition during gestation with a second or later child.

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