When discussing risk factors of pre-eclampsia, it is important to remember that the cause of pre-eclampsia is unknown as it appears to have multi-factorial processes affecting the final event. Many of the risk factors of this issue are epidemiologic risk factors, or health conditions, that generally cannot be altered. Some of the most classic risk factors of pre-eclampsia are chronic hypertension, multiple gestations and underlying maternal renal disease.
Although most of the traditional risk factors described are not modifiable, obesity and delayed childbearing are two newer circumstances that are modifiable to decrease the risk.
The obesity pandemic in the United States, combined with delayed childbearing, have both contributed to the increase of pre-eclampsia over the last decade. Additionally, the use of fertility technology, primarily in vitro fertilization (IVF), can be another independent risk factor for this condition. These can be modifiable if the public was more educated and aware about the implications of these factor upon healthy childbearing.
The greatest risk factor for the development of pre-eclampsia in a pregnant women is those with a prior history of this condition in a prior pregnancy. The severity of the disease as well as, the timing of onset in gestation, can both significantly affect the probability of recurrence of the disease. Women may have up to a 65% recurrence rate, if they previously suffered from a second trimester pre-eclampsia diagnosis that was noted to have severe features in a prior pregnancy.
All this being said, the most prevalent risk factors of pre-eclampsia are generally caused by epidemiological risk factors that are unable to be modified with lifestyle changes. However, if you are at high risk to develop this condition, there are steps to take during pregnancy to improve the outcome. If you are at a higher risk of pre-eclampsia, it is very important to obtain a preconception consultation with a physician skilled at managing high risk pregnancies, continue regular medical appointments throughout your pregnancy and discuss preventative strategies currently available, and consider evaluation by a Maternal Fetal Medicine specialist early in the pregnancy.
Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!