Preeclampsia May Increase Risk of Blood Clots, Embolism During Pregnancy

1-in-25 pregnant women worldwide are impacted by preeclampsia, which is the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths.

Women who experience preeclampsia during pregnancy may face an increased risk of developing potentially life-threatening blood clots or chronic medical conditions, according to the findings of a new study.

In a report published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open on November 17, Danish researchers indicate that expectant mothers diagnosed with preeclampsia are more likely to suffer clots that have the potential to block blood flow and result in a venous thromboembolism (VTE) event.

Preeclampsia is a serious blood pressure condition that occurs during pregnancy. It can be life-threatening if not treated early, and may lead to seizures, strokes, or even death. The disorder is often preceded by high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease, and can also reduce oxygen and nutrient transfer from the placenta to the unborn baby.

Researchers analyzed data on approximately 522,545 women from Denmark who gave birth to their first child between January 4, 1997 and December 31, 2016. They looked for cases of preeclampsia and VTE events experienced during pregnancy and after giving birth.

The findings indicate participants diagnosed with preeclampsia or early-onset preeclampsia had nearly 50% higher rates of VTE injuries, including pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis.

The data also suggests an association between preeclampsia and the development of long-term health conditions, including diabetes, as well as inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, the researchers warned.

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 Preeclampsia Health Risks

While the exact cause of preeclampsia is unknown, it normally develops halfway through pregnancy. Signs of preeclampsia onset include high blood pressure and increased protein levels in urine.

According to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no cure for preeclampsia, and the condition affects one in 25 pregnancies, between 4% and 5%; impacting more than 70,000 women worldwide every year.

Previous studies have indicated the rate of preeclampsia has increased by 25% over the past two decades, and one-third of pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S., prompting the development of preeclampsia detecting blood tests.

Other studies have labeled preeclampsia as the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths worldwide, and researchers from this recent study note that VTE events are one of the leading causes of maternal death.

The findings of this latest study suggest that a history of preeclampsia is linked to an increased long-term risk of developing blood clots that could become life-threatening if they dislodge and block blood flow. Only four studies have investigated the association between preeclampsia and the long-term risks of venous thromboembolism conditions during and after pregnancy, to date, the researchers noted.

“This cohort study suggests that preeclampsia was associated with a significantly increased risk of VTE during pregnancy, during the puerperium, and after the puerperium, even after thorough adjustment,” the researchers concluded. “Future studies should address how to improve the clinical management of women with a history of preeclampsia to prevent VTE.”

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