Though certain pregnancy complications are well documented (preeclampsia, premature birth and placenta previa to name but a few), it’s unlikely that man women would have considered the terrifying possibility that they might suffer a heart attack during or right after they’ve given birth.
But a according to a new report the number of women who have a heart attack during pregnancy, or within six months of delivering their baby appears to be on the rise.
In a new study, published in the journal Mayo Clinical Proceedings, researchers looked at 49.8 million births.
Among the women who gave birth, 1,061 had a heart attack during their labour and delivery; 922 had heart attacks during their pregnancy, and 2,390 women had heart attacks after they gave birth.
Of the more than 55 million pregnancy-related hospitalisations, the study revealed that nearly 4,500 women had heart attacks during pregnancy, childbirth or in the six weeks after delivery.
Around 200 women died after having a heart attack, according to the findings.
Researchers found that despite the overall risk of having a heart attack being relatively low, the risk had increased by a quarter from 2002 to 2014.
And that’s something they described as being “concerning”.
Among women who had a heart attack during or immediately following pregnancy, the in-hospital mortality rate was 4.5%, which researchers said was surprisingly high, considering that women of child-bearing age are generally considered to be at a low risk from suffering from a heart attack.
“Although heart attacks in young women are rare, the time during and immediately after pregnancy is a particularly vulnerable period during which heart disease may be unmasked,” study author Dr. Nathaniel Smilowitz, an interventional cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health, told TIME.
Though it isn’t immediately obvious what could be causing the increased risk, according to Live Science, researchers suggested that one possible explanation for the rise is that women are having children later in life, and older women are more at risk of heart attacks than their younger counterparts.
Compared to pregnant women in their 20s, pregnant women from ages 35 to 39 have a five-times greater risk of heart attack. Similarly, pregnant women between 40 and 44 were about 10 times more likely to have a heart attack during the study period than younger women.
Study authors believe there needs to be a greater awareness of the risk factors associated with heart disease in order to help improve the outcomes of pregnant women who develop the condition.
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