MADRID – Encountering health issues during pregnancy such as multiple miscarriages or gestational diabetes increases the risk of heart disease for mothers, making a case for medical check-ups postpartum for those at risk, a team of experts said on Wednesday.
The Spanish Societies of Cardiology (SEC), Primary Care Physicians, General Practitioners, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Endocrinology and Nutrition, Diabetes and for the Study of Obesity on Wednesday launched a project to address the dangers some women may face in the so-called fourth trimester – the three-month period following the birth of a baby.
Manuel Anguita, president of SEC told reporters at a press conference that women in Spain were very well cared for and protected during pregnancy but that once they had labored everything came to an end.
He added that even women who had experienced health issues during pregnancy and needed further health checks postpartum were not getting them.
Almudena Castro, coordinator for the working group on diabetes and obesity for SEC, said that pregnancy was an added load and a test of endurance and effort for any woman which could result in cardiovascular issues for those who are genetically predisposed.
“The problem is that pregnant women who develop issues think that once they have given birth the problems stop,” Castro warned.
“And both medical professionals and women forget that they are then exposed to a higher risk postpartum,” the expert added.
The risk of cardiovascular disease is particularly acute for women who have had problems during pregnancy such as preeclampsia, a complication characterized by high blood pressure that if left untreated can lead to organ damage and complications for both mother and baby that at worst can be fatal, suffering three or more miscarriages, and spontaneous preterm labor, when a baby and mother go into labor before week 37 in a pregnancy which is considered full term.
Irene Breton, president of the Society for Endocrinology and Nutrition, said that half of pregnant women were either overweight prior to conceiving or gained an excessive amount during pregnancy and that these women, in particular, were twice as likely to suffer gestational diabetes or hypertension.
Both conditions, alongside preeclampsia, contributed to a higher risk of heart disease for life.
According to a recent study, women who had suffered recurrent miscarriages, three or more, had a higher risk of cardiovascular complications postpartum, Doctor Maria Goya of the Society for Obstetrics and Gynecology said.
Nonetheless, 75 percent of women who had experienced any of these complications during pregnancy did not have medical follow-ups once they had labored.
There is no protocol designed to ensure the mother’s health is in check postpartum, Doctor Vicente Pallares of the Society for General Practitioners said.
“All efforts go towards the baby, and due to all the inherent issues we are all aware of, mothers take a second place when it comes to healthcare,” Pallares added.
Baring all these findings in mind, the team of experts has proposed promoting the figure of a personalized midwife who would work with the mother during the fourth trimester to make a contraceptive plan and encourage and help women to delay getting pregnant until they had managed to get back to a healthy weight.
But more importantly, experts demand that women at risk are formally acknowledged as such and are clinically followed according to their medical history and profiles.