SNOWMASS, COLO. – Think of pregnancy as a cardiovascular stress test, Carole A. Warnes, MD, urged at the Annual Cardiovascular Conference at Snowmass sponsored by the American College of Cardiology.
Pregnancy complications may unmask a predisposition to premature cardiovascular disease. Yet a woman’s reproductive history is often overlooked in this regard, despite the fact that cardiovascular disease is the number-one cause of death in women, observed Dr. Warnes, the Snowmass conference director and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
“I think reproductive history is often overlooked as a predictor of cardiovascular and even peripheral vascular events. I suspect many of us don’t routinely ask our patients about miscarriages and stillbirths. We might think about preeclampsia, but these are also hallmarks of trouble to come,” the cardiologist said.
Indeed, this point was underscored in a retrospective Danish national population-based cohort registry study of more than 1 million women followed for nearly 16 million person-years after one or more miscarriages, stillbirths, or live singleton births. Women with stillbirths were 2.69-fold more likely to have an MI, 2.42-fold more likely to develop renovascular hypertension, and 1.74-fold more likely to have a stroke during follow-up than those with no stillbirths.
Moreover, women with miscarriages were 1.13-, 1.2-, and 1.16-fold more likely to have an MI, renovascular hypertension, and stroke, respectively, than women with no miscarriages. And the risks were additive: For each additional miscarriage, the risks of MI, renovascular hypertension, and stroke increased by 9%, 19%, and 13%, respectively (Circulation. 2013;127:1775-82).
The concept of maternal placental syndromes encompasses four events believed to originate from diseased placental blood vessels: preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, placental abruption, and placental infarction. In a population-based retrospective study known as CHAMPS (Cardiovascular Health After Maternal Placental Syndromes), conducted in more than 1 million Ontario women who were free from cardiovascular disease prior to their first delivery, 7% were diagnosed with a maternal placental syndrome. Their incidence of a composite endpoint comprised of hospitalization or revascularization for CAD, peripheral artery disease, or cerebrovascular disease at least 90 days after delivery discharge was double that of women without a maternal placental syndrome.
“These women manifested their first cardiovascular event at an average age of 38, not 50 or 60,” Dr. Warnes said.
The risk of premature cardiovascular disease was magnified 4.4-fold in women with a maternal placental syndrome plus an intrauterine fetal death, compared with those with neither, after adjustment for sociodemographic factors and other potential confounders, and by 3.1-fold in women with a maternal placental syndrome and poor fetal growth (Lancet. 2005;366:1797-803).