A recent study from the American Heart Association shows that high blood pressure complications in pregnancy have nearly doubled.
Why is keeping our hearts healthy during pregnancy is so important?
Pregnancy itself is already a cardiovascular stress test. In a normal pregnancy, blood pressure decreases most commonly in the first and second trimester and then increases to pre-pregnancy levels by the third trimester.
A recent study from the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2020 found high blood pressure complicated about 80,000 pregnancies in 2018, nearly twice as many as in 2007.
It is shocking to see the dramatic increase but also seeing women as young as 15 to 24 years old with high blood pressure.
These statistics were worse in rural areas - women living in rural areas continue to be approximately 20% more likely to have high blood pressure before pregnancy than women living in urban communities.
This could be due to difficulty accessing care.
This study also found non-Hispanic Black women had more than double the risk of pre-pregnancy hypertension compared to white and Hispanic women.
So high blood pressure on the rise in pregnant women, but what about heart attacks?
Yes, they are. Another recent study from the American Heart Association is showing that pregnancy-related heart attacks- especially in the period after childbirth- are on the rise in women who are age 30 or older.
Although it is still considered uncommon. Three-fourths of those women in the study who had heart attacks from 2003-2015 were 30 years or older.
What is the cause of the rise in heart attacks for women in this age?
Pregnancy can place a lot of stress on the body, especially your heart.
This increase in heart attacks goes hand in hand with the increases in maternal age, as well as the rise in obesity.
Additionally, in the study, 51% of the women who had heart attacks experienced them post-partum. This is significant as it showcases the importance of post-natal care.
People often forget about the postpartum period but that's a period of high risk because of changes in the maternal cardiovascular system. Most patients have left the hospital by the time symptoms begin. With a new baby at home, the last place mothers want to be is back in the hospital.
What is something women around this age can look out for?
It is important to know that preventive care must start before pregnancy.
Women with cardiovascular disease, or at high risk of developing it during pregnancy, work with a team of specialists ideally before pregnancy, during, and after delivery.
Make sure you talk to your doctor about the risk factors during pregnancy, which includes known coronary artery disease, gestational high blood pressure disorders, high cholesterol, blood clotting conditions, substance abuse history, smoking history, and obesity.
Asking yourself if you could be having a heart attack or stroke might not be on your radar, but it is especially not on a young woman’s radar and that is why we need to spread awareness.
I specialize in Obstetrics and Gynecology, caring for women in and out of Touro. I value the physician/patient relationship because I strive to understand what is important to my patients and to become a confidant to guide them through varying stages of life.