Risk of pre-eclampsia in first and subsequent pregnancies: prospective cohort study

Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115, USA.
BMJ (online) (Impact Factor: 16.38). 02/2009; 338:b2255. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.b2255
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT To investigate whether pre-eclampsia is more common in first pregnancies solely because fewer affected women, who presumably have a higher risk of recurrence, go on to have subsequent pregnancies.
Prospective cohort study.
Swedish Medical Birth Register.
763 795 primiparous mothers who had their first births in Sweden, 1987-2004.
The risk of pre-eclampsia was 4.1% in the first pregnancy and 1.7% in later pregnancies overall. However, the risk was 14.7% in the second pregnancy for women who had had pre-eclampsia in their first pregnancy and 31.9% for women who had had pre-eclampsia in the previous two pregnancies. The risk for multiparous women without a history of pre-eclampsia was around 1%. The incidence of pre-eclampsia associated with delivery before 34 weeks' gestation was 0.42% in primiparous women, 0.11% in multiparous women without a history of pre-eclampsia, and 6.8% and 12.5% in women who had had one or two previous pregnancies affected, respectively. The proportion of women who went on to have a further pregnancy was 4-5% lower after having a pregnancy with any pre-eclampsia but over 10% lower if pre-eclampsia was associated with very preterm delivery. The estimated risk of pre-eclampsia in parous women did not change with standardisation for pregnancy rates.
Having pre-eclampsia in one pregnancy is a poor predictor of subsequent pregnancy but a strong predictor for recurrence of pre-eclampsia in future gestations. The lower overall risk of pre-eclampsia among parous women was not explained by fewer conceptions among women who had had pre-eclampsia in a previous gestation. Early onset pre-eclampsia might be associated with a reduced likelihood of a future pregnancy and with more recurrences than late onset pre-eclampsia when there are further pregnancies. Findings are consistent with the existence of two distinct conditions: a severe recurrent early onset type affected by chronic factors, genetic or environmental, and a milder sporadic form affected by transient factors.

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