Women who were born prematurely have a greater risk of developing complications while pregnant, compared to women who were born at term. That’s according to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
The study, which was carried out by researchers at the Université de Montreal and Hôpital Ste. Justine Research Centre found that the pregnancy complications included gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, and pre-eclampsia or eclampsia.
“Many scientists consider that pregnancy is like an open window to the future cardio and metabolic health of a woman,” said lead author and neonatologist Anne Monique Nuyt, associate professor of pediatrics, neonatal division.
One in 10 women born at full term experienced at least one serious problem during pregnancy. That risk doubled to one in five for women who were extremely premature, that is, born before 32 weeks’ gestation.
The findings imply that physicians monitoring pregnancies should also ask women about their own birth experiences, Nuyt said.
No need to eb alarmed
“But there’s no need to be alarmist”, Nuyt said. These are relatively frequent pregnancy complications that obstetricians commonly screen for. Also, a strong association does not prove causality, Nuyt pointed out.
The study found that a substantial number of preterm women had higher diagnoses of chronic hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.
“Given the high survival rate of premature babies over the last 30 years – eight per cent of births are premature – it’s possible that the condition may contribute to hypertension, Type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular problems later in life”, Nuyt said.
Physicians must tread carefully when consulting with patients in assessing risks, said Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada spokes-man William Mundle.
“This is really interesting and important information and as a counselling tool,” he said. “But really, we’d want to see other studies that con-firm this information before we start adding a huge extra burden, in terms of the worry that pregnant women have.”