Early detection of pregnancy complications are crucial for better management and prevention strategies paving way for better maternal and neonatal health. Analyzing pre-existing health conditions in women before pregnancy may provide a vital clue. A recent study conducted by a team of researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Bristol and led by Imperial College London, U.K., may shed light on new treatment avenues for preeclampsia or fetal growth restriction (FGR). They found that pregnant women diagnosed with these conditions might be suffering with pre-existing cardiovascular differences in which their hearts were weakened to pump less blood than normal rates. Surprisingly, these women in the study seemed perfectly healthy and showed normal cardiovascular functions.
The study was funded by the Imperial Health Charity, NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre, and Action Medical Research and the findings were published in Journal of Hypertension.
Preeclampsia and FGR bear Substantial Risk to Health and Life of Women and their Babies
494 healthy women who had planned to conceive participated in the study of which 218 became pregnant of which almost seven percent were afflicted with preeclampsia or FGR characterized by conditions of high blood pressure and less than normal weight of the baby during pregnancy respectively. Both the diseases are triggered by similar defects and previous studies posited the role of abnormal development of placenta as the key cause of the conditions.
According to the lead author of the study, preeclampsia and FGR can sometimes have serious repercussion on maternal and neonatal health risking their lives. Furthermore, women with these conditions may be more prone to cardiovascular diseases or stroke in the latter years. The study sheds lights on the root causes of the conditions.
Study sheds Light on Identifying Risk Factors for Preeclampsia and Fetal Growth Restriction
The researchers tracked the heart function and blood pressure of all the women. Those that were found to be afflicted with FGR or preeclampsia after pregnancy had hearts with impaired pumping functions even before the placenta developed. In particular, the blood pumped by affected hearts was clocked to be 16 per cent less per minute than the healthy respondents.
However, further studies are needed to arrive at definite results in evaluating the risk factors for preeclampsia. The researchers are trying to frame better management strategies for these conditions. Such recommendations include making dietary changes, reducing obesity, and engaging in more physical exercise before or during pregnancy.