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Friday, 23 November, 2001, 00:49 GMT
'Pregnancy crisis' link to heart disease
Pregnant woman
One in 10 first time mothers suffer from pre-eclampsia
Scientists believe women who have pre-eclampsia during their first pregnancy may be at higher risk of heart disease in later life.

Research published in this week's issue of the British Medical Journal suggests a possible genetic link between the potentially life-threatening condition - which can affect one in 10 first-time mothers - and heart disease.

Pre-eclampsia can be dangerous for both mother and developing baby, and occurs only during pregnancy, and usually during the later stages.

It causes a pregnant woman's blood pressure to rise to very high levels.

This causes complications such as fluid retention and can lead to the condition eclampsia, which is associated with dangerous convulsions.

This research highlights how important it is to identify people at risk from heart disease early

British Heart Foundation spokeswoman

But research carried out by scientists in Norway suggests it may also be an early indication of heart disease later in life.

Their study identified more than 600,000 first time mothers who gave birth between 1967 and 1992.

They authors, from the University of Bergen, found women who had pre-eclampsia and gave birth before the end of the nine month term were eight times more likely to die from heart disease than those who did not suffer from the condition and whose pregnancy went to full term.

Long-term risks

They said their findings, while not conclusive, suggested a long-term risk of death from heart disease is associated with the mother's genetic predisposition.

Writing in the BMJ, they said: "Although our results apply only to relatively young women, the implications for the determination of the causes of pre-eclampsia and eventually its prevention may still be important."

They added: "With longer follow up the pattern of risks may become clearer but may also change.

"For instance, it is possible that the risk of death in the long term changes with outcome in subsequent pregnancies."

The British Heart Foundation is funding a study, which aims to identify the genes responsible for pre-eclampsia.

"This substantial research suggests a genetic link between cardiovascular disease and pre-eclampsia," a spokeswoman said.

"The British Heart Foundation is also funding research into pre-eclampsia so that the genes responsible can be identified.

"This research also highlights how important it is to identify people at risk from heart disease early so that preventative measures can be taken."

See also:

02 Apr 01 | Health
Pregnancy danger gene identified
14 Jun 00 | Health
Discovery over pregnancy danger
09 Feb 01 | Health
Aspirin 'cuts pregnancy danger'
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