In pregnancy, it is not entirely uncommon that you will experience preeclampsia, which is a type of hypertension that arises in gestation. High blood pressure is the most obvious sign of preeclampsia, but it can also affect your kidneys, liver and other organs. While the cause of preeclampsia is unknown, a recent study shows a connection with the age of the pregnant woman and the likelihood that she will develop preeclampsia. As the age of planned pregnancy steadily increases in Western countries, new issues are constantly arising.

In the registry-based study, data from three separate health registries was analyzed to determine whether or not age had any bearing on the likelihood of getting preeclampsia. The sample studied first-time pregnant women with preeclampsia who were separated into two groups— those under the age of thirty-five and those over the age of thirty-five.

The results of the study showed that if you are of an advanced maternal age you are more likely to develop preeclampsia than younger women. Of the women over the age of 35 studied in the sample, 9.4% had preeclampsia. Only 6.4% of younger women were afflicted. While there were other uncontrolled variables in this sample, such as maternal diabetes, smoking and other fertility treatments, the results are clear enough to determine that age does in fact affect preeclampsia.

When women are afflicted with preeclampsia, their pregnancies are often complicated by impaired fetal growth and preterm deliveries, putting the baby at risk. The reason that older women are more likely to be afflicted with preeclampsia was not a focus of this study, but it is suggested that it might have to do with the age of the uterine blood vessels. Because the vessels are older, they are more constricted and therefore contribute to hypertension. While there is no universal ideal age for pregnancy, women who are closer to or over the age of menopause are naturally less able to care for a young child. Their bodies will not produce the appropriate nutrients during pregnancy and they are at risk for numerous complications, including preeclampsia.

Aside from having a baby at a young age, there are a few methods known to decrease your risk for preeclampsia. Taking aspirin early on in your pregnancy and getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D throughout, especially for darker-skinned women, have both shown positive results in preventing the type of hypertension known as preeclampsia.

Source: Reeta Lamminpää et al.: Preeclampsia complicated by advanced maternal age: a registry-based study on primiparous women in Finland 1997-2008, BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, June 2012

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