Pregnancy is a happy time for many women, but during the nine months of gestation, conditions can develop that put moms-to-be at risk a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Preeclampsia and gestational diabetes can develop during pregnancy, potentially putting women’s long-term health at risk.
With comprehensive evaluation and regular monitoring, most women can have a safe and healthy pregnancy. We’ve listed three of the most common conditions.
• Preeclampsia: There is no known way to prevent preeclampsia, a condition related to increased blood pressure and protein in expecting mothers’ urine. An increase in protein is indicative of a problem with the pregnant woman’s kidneys. How to prevent preeclampsia may remain a mystery, but women who have high blood pressure or are obese before giving birth may be prone to the condition. Age also may affect the likelihood that a woman will develop preeclampsia, as women younger than 20 and those older than 40 are considered to be at greater risk of developing the condition than those between the ages of 21 and 39. The risk for preeclampsia is also greater among women who are expecting twins and those who have diabetes, kidney disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or scleroderma. Physicians can treat preeclampsia, and women who develop the condition can have successful pregnancies and give birth to healthy babies.
• Gestational diabetes: Pregnancy hormones can interfere with the ability a pregnant woman’s body has to use insulin efficiently. As a result, women must produce extra insulin while pregnant. If that cannot happen, then blood sugar levels can rise and lead to gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes produces no warning signs, so women must ensure their glucose levels are monitored throughout their pregnancies. The long-term ramifications of gestational diabetes can be significant, as the condition can raise both mother and baby’s risk of developing diabetes later in life.
• Stroke: Women can suffer from stroke at any time during their pregnancy, though the risk is high during childbirth and in the first few months after childbirth. Preexisting conditions, such as blood vessel malformation or eclampsia, are often the culprits when pregnant women or new mothers suffer strokes.