A new study shows that mamas-to-be who have complications during pregnancy may also be at greater risk of heart disease later in life.
pregnant woman at doctors getting blood pressure taken
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Complicated pregnancies are challenging enough to deal with. But new research suggests the challenges may not end after the baby comes.

It turns out that mamas-to-be who have complications during their pregnancies may also be at greater risk of dying from heart disease later on in their lives. This new research appears in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation.

Researchers looked at data from the Public Health Institute's Child Health and Development Studies, which included close to 16,000 pregnant women in the Oakland, California area from 1959 to 1967. As of 2011, 368 of those women, who were at an average age of 66, had passed away from cardiovascular diseases.

Confirming some past studies, the researchers in this project found some pregnancy complications associated with cardiovascular diseases—for instance, preeclampsiapre-term delivery, and babies born small—and that preeclampsia in early pregnancy was a big predictor for cardiovascular disease death before the age of 60. They also found risks increased for other complications such as preexisting high blood pressure with pre-term delivery, preexisting high blood pressure with preeclampsia, preexisting high blood pressure and babies born small, and gestational high blood pressure with preterm delivery.

Of course this news sounds scary. But the study's results can save lives.

"Pregnancy is really a stress test for the cardiovascular system," said Barbara A. Cohn, Ph.D., senior study author and director of the Public Health Institute's Child Health and Development Studies in Berkeley, California, in an American Heart Association news release. "These risk factors, which are in the patient's health record, should lead doctors to discuss with these women ways to reduce their risk of heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases."

She added, "One of the wonderful things about cardiovascular medicine is the enormous progress that has been made in preventing death in men and women. These pregnancy complications are early warning signs that tell you to pay attention to risk factors that you can control."

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Alesandra Dubin is a mom to 1-year-old boy-girl twins. She's also a Los Angeles-based writer and the founder of lifestyle blog Homebody in Motion. Follow her on FacebookInstagramGoogle+ and Twitter.