There are many changes that happen to your body during pregnancy, and you may think that whatever happens while you're expecting doesn't have much of a connection to your health post-baby. However, that may not be the case. According to a recent report released by physicians with the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, how your body responds to pregnancy could be a strong indicator of your chances of experiencing health problems later in life.
The researchers explained that pregnancy puts a great deal of pressure on your cardiovascular and metabolic system. In fact, these systems in your body may go through more stress during pregnancy than any other time. The way that your body responds to this stress could be a sign of your chances of developing chronic conditions years later. The scientists stressed how important it is to find potential clues to things that may be associated with the development of chronic conditions, since nearly half of all adults have a chronic illness.
Looking for signs
Researcher George Saade, M.D., past president of SMFM, explained that the rates of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity are rising among women. Currently, doctors tend to wait to screen for these health problems until later in life, since women have an increased risk of developing these conditions when they are older. However, the researchers believe that physicians should be using information they collect on a woman's health during her pregnancy, and use that to help them determine her risk of developing a chronic condition later on.
"Pregnancy is essentially a cardiovascular stress test," explained Graeme Smith, M.D., Ph.D., from the Kingston General Hospital at Queen's University and co-author of the report. "Common pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes, gestational impaired glucose intolerance, clinically significant placental abruption, preterm birth and/or delivery of a growth restricted baby are perhaps the earliest clinically identifiable markers for a woman's increased risk of premature cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular death."
The researchers recommended that obstetricians work together with primary care doctors and share information with them regarding a woman's health during pregnancy - particularly anything that could be an indicator that she may develop a chronic condition later in life. Furthermore, they need to make sure that any information about a woman's health while she is expecting that is relevant to her long-term well-being should be transferred onto her permanent medical file.
Avoiding chronic conditions
It's important for you to do everything you can to reduce your risk of developing a chronic condition. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that for women who are of reproductive age - meaning they are between the ages of 15 and 44 - high blood pressure and diabetes are two of the most common chronic conditions.
There are ways that you can reduce your chances of developing these conditions. For example, the CDC states that it's important for you to visit you healthcare provider regularly and follow all of his or her advice regarding your health. Also, you should stop smoking if this a habit that you have. It's also important for you to maintain a healthy weight through exercising and eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat sources of protein. Being overweight can increase your risk of becoming obese and developing heart disease or Type 2 diabetes.
Do you talk to your doctor about your risk of developing a chronic condition later in life? What does he or she tell you to do to reduce your risk? Leave some tips here!