SEATTLE, May 31, 2023 – Heart disease is the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the United States, causing more than 1 in 4 maternal deaths. Simply put, heart disease is the leading killer of new moms, according to the American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization devoted to world of healthier lives for all. There are many factors that influence a woman’s cardiovascular health during pregnancy, but one of the risk factors is high blood pressure. Some women who have never had high blood pressure develop it while they are pregnant. 

“Preeclampsia is a dangerous type of high blood pressure that develops during one in 25 pregnancies in the United States. If not detected and treated early enough, it can be life-threatening to the mother and unborn baby. High blood pressure during pregnancy is also the leading cause of stroke in pregnant and postpartum patients,” said Joanna Zhou, MD in obstetrics and gynecology at The Polyclinic, part of Optum.   

Preeclampsia usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy, characterized by high blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine. Regular prenatal care is critical in catching high blood pressure, which is an important sign that preeclampsia may be developing. Testing may be done to check the mother’s urine, blood and physical health. “Some women may also experience symptoms that can include headaches, changes in vision, abdominal pain and rapid swelling or weight gain,” explained Dr. Zhou.    

There is no proven way to predict who will have high blood pressure during pregnancy but women are at higher risk for preeclampsia if they are in their first pregnancy, have a history of preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy, have chronic hypertension, diabetes, or kidney disease, are carrying multiples like twins or triplets, went through in vitro fertilization, have family history of preeclampsia, are obese or are 35 years or older. 

“Your healthcare provider will help determine the best course of action for treating preeclampsia. Delivery of the baby will ultimately help treat preeclampsia.” said Dr. Zhou. At 34 weeks or later, experts recommend delivery as soon as medically possible. If the pregnancy is earlier than 34 weeks, drugs might be prescribed to improve the baby's lungs before delivery and manage blood pressure until delivery is deemed safe for mom and baby. 

The good news is that preeclampsia symptoms usually go away within six weeks of delivery. Women with preeclampsia, however, are more likely to develop hypertension and diabetes later in life. Having the condition also raises the odds of heart failure, especially if preeclampsia occurs in more than one pregnancy. 

“I cannot stress enough the importance of a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy, as it is a critical time for mom and baby. For a healthier pregnancy, be sure to get early and regular medical care, track blood pressureat home if advised, eat a healthy diet, and get regular physical activity," advised Dr. Zhou.         

Cardiovascular disease can pose a threat to women during pregnancy and later in life, making it important that women understand how to care for themselves as well as their babies. For more information about heart health in women at all stages in life, visit Go Red for Women is a worldwide initiative of the American Heart Association designed to increase women’s heart health awareness and serve as a catalyst for change to improve the lives of women locally, nationally, and globally.  Go Red for Women is sponsored by Optum in the Puget Sound


About Go Red for Women® 

The American Heart Association’s signature initiative, Go Red for Women®, is a comprehensive platform designed to increase women’s heart health awareness and serve as a catalyst for change to improve the lives of women globally. While nearly 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women, claiming the lives of 1 in 3 women. For 19 years, Go Red for Women has encouraged awareness. The movement harnesses the energy, passion and power of women to band together and collectively wipe out heart disease. It challenges them to know their risk for heart disease and take action to reduce their personal risk. It also gives them tools they need to lead a heart healthy life. The Go Red for Women movement is nationally sponsored by CVS Health, with additional support from national cause supporters. For more information, please visit or call 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721).   

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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