Study highlights heart disease risk for pregnant women

December 8, 2016, University of Oxford
Study highlights heart disease risk for pregnant women. Credit: Shutterstock

Pregnant women and those who have recently given birth need to be aware of the symptoms of heart disease, says a major new report from researchers at the University of Oxford.

The latest Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Deaths from the national collaborative programme studying maternal and infant deaths, MBRRACE-UK, commissioned by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership shows that in 2012-14, 8.5 per 100,000 died during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth. The report, 'Saving Lives, Improving Mothers' Care', highlights that two in every 100,000 died from heart disease, which is the leading cause of women dying in pregnancy or the early weeks after childbirth. There has been no significant change in the overall national maternal death rate since the last report.

The study focused on reviewing in detail the care of 153 women who died from heart disease during or after pregnancy in the UK and Ireland between 2009 and 2014.

The researchers noted that in some instances women had typical symptoms of a heart attack – severe central spreading to the left arm or back – but did not seek advice from their doctor or midwife because they did not consider they could be at risk of . Other women reported severe breathlessness when sitting at rest, made worse when lying flat in bed, but didn't realise that this could be an indication of heart disease. It was also noted that some women who were known to have heart problems before they became pregnant were not recognised as 'high risk' and therefore did not receive the specialist care they needed.

The report also highlights a major success for maternity care in the UK. Between 2012-14, less than one in every million women giving birth died from pre-eclampsia and related conditions, equating to one woman every 18 months across the UK. When the Confidential Enquiries into Maternal Deaths began in the UK sixty years ago, the figure would have been nearer to 150 women. Globally, pre-eclampsia is still a major killer of , with 20,000 women dying worldwide over the same time period as one woman dying in the UK. This shows the benefit of translating research into clinical practice and providing to women.

However, the report noted some areas where care could still be improved, including emphasising the importance of healthcare practitioners checking blood pressure and urine tests at every antenatal visit.

Professor Marian Knight, who led the research, commented: 'Whilst dying from heart disease in pregnancy or after childbirth is uncommon, women need to be aware that they may be at risk, particularly older women. It is important to seek advice from your doctor or midwife if you have severe chest pain which spreads to your left arm or back. Being breathless when lying flat is not normal in pregnancy, and may also be an indication of heart problems.'

Professor Jenny Kurinczuk, who leads the MBRRACE-UK collaboration, noted: 'It is extremely good news that so few women are dying from pre-eclampsia and related complications, and is evidence of the excellent care our maternity services provide. However, it is important to remember that we are not yet so successful in preventing other complications of pre-eclampsia, and, in particular, deaths of babies whose mothers have the condition.'

Professor Knight added: 'High quality care has clearly reduced the number of women who die from pre-eclampsia. In order to reduce the overall maternal death rate, we now need to provide women with and other medical and mental health conditions the same high .'

Explore further: UK sees a fall in maternal deaths

More information: Saving Lives, Improving Mothers' Care: www.npeu.ox.ac.uk/downloads/fi … 16%20-%20website.pdf

Related Stories

UK sees a fall in maternal deaths

December 9, 2014
Maternal deaths in the UK have dropped from 11 per 100,000 women giving birth in 2006–08 to 10 per 100,000 women giving birth in 2010–12, according to a report led by the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, University ...

Maternal suicides – more could be prevented

December 8, 2015
A UK-wide study of pregnancy-related deaths in women has found that while overall numbers are falling, some women could receive better care, particularly in relation to their mental health.

Kidney disease risk for some pregnant women

November 17, 2016
Research from the University of Aberdeen has found that that there was an increased risk of chronic kidney disease later in life for mothers who had high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Analysis looks at risk factors for direct maternal deaths in the UK

January 13, 2015
Medical co-morbidities, when women have one or more medical conditions, are found to be an important factor associated with direct maternal deaths, suggests a new study published today (9 January) in BJOG: An International ...

Link found between pre-eclampsia and diabetes later in life

September 22, 2016
Research led by Keele University and published this week in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes) has identified a new link between pre-eclampsia in pregnancy and the development ...

One child mothers with pre-eclampsia at higher risk of heart problems

November 28, 2012
Women who develop pre-eclampsia during their first pregnancy (known as preterm pre-eclampsia) - and who don't go on to have any more children – are at greater risk of dying from heart disease in later life than women who ...

Recommended for you

Undiagnosed STIs can increase negative PMS symptoms

September 17, 2018
Women that have undiagnosed sexually transmitted infections may be at greater risk of experiencing negative premenstrual symptoms (PMS), according to new Oxford University research.

High dose folic acid does not prevent pre-eclampsia in high risk women

September 13, 2018
Taking high dose folic acid supplements in later pregnancy (beyond the first trimester) does not prevent pre-eclampsia in women at high risk for this condition, finds a randomised controlled trial published by The BMJ today.

Study finds air purifiers may benefit fetal growth

September 12, 2018
A new study led by SFU health sciences researchers Prabjit Barn and Ryan Allen reveals fetal growth may improve if pregnant women use portable air purifiers inside their homes.

Delayed childbearing is a growing source of multiple births, study shows

September 12, 2018
Starting in the 1980s, the number of multiple births—twins, triplets, quadruplets and quintuplets—steadily increased from about 20 sets per 1,000 live births to almost 35 sets per 1,000 live births in the 2010s.

Transforming pregnancy research with a smartphone app

September 5, 2018
For years, pregnant women have been underrepresented in biomedical research. Current treatments, interventions and guidelines do a poor job of taking into consideration the diverse characteristics of all pregnant women.

For women undergoing IVF, is fresh or frozen embryo transfer best?

August 21, 2018
The world's first baby born via in-vitro fertilization turned 40 years old this summer. Still, after four decades, IVF is a relatively new field with ongoing debate on how to get the best results for families who have placed ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.