1 in 10 Women may Develop Hypertension for the First Time After Pregnancy

This insight may provide a better understanding of the persistent racial disparities in US maternal morbidity and mortality, and the extent to which hypertension may contribute to these disparities. The findings also underscore the need for strategies to identify and manage postpartum high blood pressure among high-risk patients before they are discharged from the hospital after delivery.

“The study findings have implications for postpartum care, particularly among patients without a history of hypertension,” says study lead author Dr. Samantha Parker (SPH’14), assistant professor of epidemiology at BUSPH and a 2014 alum of SPH’s PhD program in epidemiology.

“We were surprised at the number of cases captured more than six weeks after delivery, a period that falls well outside of routine postpartum follow-up,” Parker says. “Monitoring during this period could mitigate severe postpartum and long-term cardiovascular complications.”


Other studies suggest that new-onset hypertension after childbirth may be up to 2.5 times more common among non-Hispanic black women compared to white women, she adds. “Understanding this relationship between pregnancy and hypertension is particularly important in addressing inequities in maternal cardiovascular disease and death for people of color.”

For the study, Parker and colleagues from BUSPH and Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine (Chobanian & Avedisian SOM) utilized medical records to examine demographic characteristics and prenatal, delivery, and postpartum data among 3,925 pregnant people who gave birth between 2016 and 2018 at Boston Medical Center. The researchers analyzed patients’ blood pressure measurements from the prenatal period through 12 months after delivery, taken at the hospital during office visits, urgent and emergency care, and readmissions.

The team defined new-onset postpartum hypertension as at least two separate blood pressure readings, beginning 48 hours after delivery, in which the systolic blood pressure was at least 140 mmHg and the diastolic blood pressure was at least 90 mmHg. Severe blood pressure included systolic readings that were at least 160 mmHg and diastolic readings that were at least 110 mmHg.

Although the majority of patients were diagnosed with postpartum hypertension before they were discharged from the hospital following delivery, 43 percent of patients received first-time hypertension diagnoses after their delivery hospitalization—and about half of these new cases occurred more than six weeks postpartum, emphasizing the need for blood pressure monitoring throughout the entire postpartum period.

“Future research should explore opportunities to reduce the risk of hypertension in the postpartum period and investigate the implications of postpartum hypertension on future cardiovascular health.”

The study’s senior author is Dr. Christina Yarrington, assistant professor of obstetrics & gynecology at Chobanian & Avedisian SOM. Ayodele Ajayi, a research assistant at BUSPH at the time of the study, is a co-author.

Source: Eurekalert

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