Weight gain linked to increased risk of preeclampsia for 1st-time mothers

Excessive weight gain during pregnancy increases the risk of preeclampsia in women who are pregnant for the first time, according to a study published June 18 in Hypertension.

“Preeclampsia is a predictor of cardiovascular disease and other metabolic disorders in later life. Identifying modifiable risk factors for preeclampsia is an important priority for preventing disease onset during pregnancy and potentially reducing longer-term health risks,” wrote lead author Kari Johansson, PhD, of Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. “Although pre-pregnancy obesity is a well-established modifiable risk factor for preeclampsia, the role of high weight gain during pregnancy is less clear.”

The researchers of the study sought to determine whether pregnancy weight gain before diagnosis is associated with increased risks of preeclampsia, overall and according to disease subtype. They also wanted to establish the gestational age at which the pregnancy weight gain trajectories of women who go on to develop preeclampsia diverge from those women without preeclampsia.

The researchers tracked the amount of weight gained in more than 62,700 Swedish women who had never given birth. The women were further stratified by body mass index. Using electronic health records, researchers determined the date of preeclampsia diagnosis, with 4.4 percent developing preeclampsia.

The odds of preeclampsia increased by approximately 60 percent with weight gain among normal and overweight women. The odds of preeclampsia increased by 20 percent among obese women.

By 25 weeks, the researchers wrote, the weight gain of women who subsequently developed preeclampsia was significantly higher than women who did not. High pregnancy weight gain was more associated with full term, or more than 37 weeks, than earlier preeclampsia at less than 34 weeks.

“In this large population-based cohort of women with serial weight gain measurements and known date of preeclampsia diagnosis, we found that high weight gain was more strongly associated with later-onset preeclampsia,” Johansson and colleagues wrote. “Furthermore, risks associated with high weight gain were more pronounced in leaner women.”