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Pregnancy and heart disease

Information and resources for health professionals.

Cardiovascular disease risk associated with pregnancy has until recent times been poorly acknowledged, researched and understood. However, we now know:

Women who have been diagnosed with either pre-eclampsia or gestational hypertension are at increased risk of subsequent hypertension and cardiovascular disease. The relative risk of chronic hypertension is four times and ischaemic heart disease twice that of women who did not experience these conditions in pregnancy [1].

Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy affect five to ten percent of pregnancies worldwide. In Australia, 30,000 women each year will develop high blood pressure in pregnancy and 10,000 of these will lead to preeclampsia [2] [3].

Between five and ten percent of pregnant women will develop gestational diabetes, also associated with increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life. AIHW data collected in 2015 suggests that as many as 10.5 percent of Australian women may experience gestational diabetes [4].

There is currently limited information available for women to understand these vascular conditions, their implications for long-term cardiovascular health and actions they can take to reduce their risk.

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