I’m not interested in this Canadian women’s health initiative in Kingston, Ontario just because it will help identify links between our pregnancy complications and heart disease.
I’m not interested in this just because during my first pregnancy I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia – a serious complication that has now been “strongly linked” with a marked increase in cardiovascular disease.
And I’m not interested just because I have such a personal soft spot for the historic limestone city of Kingston and for its venerable Queen’s University, along with other members of our family who are Queen’s grads – “Oil thigh na Banrighinn! Cha-gheill! Cha-gheill! Cha-gheill! ” (for those of you who happen to have your Gaelic-English dictionaries handy).
When I was about eight months pregnant with Ben, my first baby, I was diagnosed with something called preeclampsia. This is a serious condition affecting about 5% of pregnant women, identified by symptoms like sudden spikes in blood pressure, protein in the urine, severe swelling, and headaches or vision problems. It’s also women’s third leading pregnancy-related cause of death. Preeclampsia is clinically described as:
“…a disorder of widespread vascular endothelial malfunction and vasospasm that occurs after 20 weeks’ gestation”.
Whenever you see the words “vascular” or “endothelial” or “vasospasm” in the same sentence, you know you’re likely talking about the heart. And although preeclampsia typically goes away after pregnancy, its diagnosis may well be an early indicator of underlying heart conditions that may simmer for decades. In fact, studies now show that pregnant women who develop preeclampsia have more than twice the risk of having a heart attack or stroke later in life.