During pregnancy, medical assessments are frequent and women are closely monitored for complications of pregnancy, including gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. For women who develop either of these conditions in pregnancy, it is recommended that they are followed up postpartum to ensure these conditions have gone away and stay away, but unfortunately, this often does not happen.
These issues are discussed in detail in a recent Perspectives article in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Pregnancy is a ‘stress test’ of sorts to the entire body, including the systems that manage blood pressure and blood sugars. So, if a woman develops diabetes or hypertension in pregnancy, this is a signal that they are at a higher risk of developing these conditions after pregnancy as well. If the initial postpartum testing is normal, this doesn’t mean that the woman is free and clear long term – it is important that these conditions continue to be screened throughout her life as they may arise again years later. Detecting high blood pressure or diabetes is important as (amongst other reasons) they are both cardiovascular risk factors.
It is also possible that pregnancy complications may damage the lining of the blood vessels or trigger inflammation directly, thus increasing the long term risk of heart disease or stroke – these are topics of ongoing research.
BOTTOM LINE: For women who have had gestational diabetes or high blood pressure in pregnancy, it is important that these parameters are checked not only postpartum, but screened for lifelong as well.
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