Pregnancy and delivery often act as medical stress tests for mothers as complications such as gestational hypertension, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes could lead to cardiovascular disease and diabetes later in life. A new study shows mothers may face fatal consequences for as long as 50 years after delivery.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine determined that factors such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and premature delivery contributed to an increased risk of death in the decades following delivery compared to those women who had uneventful pregnancies and deliveries.

"We know that the context of childbirth has changed since the 1950s and '60s, but these findings demonstrate how crucial it is to people's long-term health that we invest in preventive care and screenings for people with complicated pregnancies and deliveries, both then and today," said the study's lead author, Stefanie Hinkle, an assistant professor of Epidemiology at Penn Medicine.

In the U.S., more than 800 maternal deaths happen in connection with delivery every year. Estimates show that out of every 100,000 births, more than 23 result in deaths. These numbers include fatalities during childbirth and the immediate postpartum period.

Since not many studies have not gone into the long-term effects of complicated childbirths, which can lead to serious health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, Hinkle and the co-authors decided to look into that.

The researchers evaluated data from more than 46,000 women in the United States who gave birth between 1959 and 1966. They were tracked for deaths of any kind until 2016. The team found around 18,000 of them had died.

The study revealed that pre-term childbirth due to spontaneous labor was linked to a 7% increase in the risk of death compared to those who delivered a baby full-term. The risk further increased to 23% among those who had a water break before the term, 31% for preterm induced labor and 109% for patients who had a pre-term cesarean delivery, when compared to people who did not have any of these types of complications during deliveries.

In women who already had high blood pressure before their pregnancy and then developed preeclampsia during pregnancy, the risk of death in the subsequent years was 32%. Those who developed high blood pressure during their pregnancy showed a 9% risk.

Gestational diabetes or high blood sugar levels in pregnancy increased the risk of death by 14%.

The samples had 41% Black patients compared to 37% white patients and the risk of complications from pre-term delivery was 20% for Blacks and 9% for white people.

The study highlights the need for preventive care and screenings for people with complicated pregnancies and deliveries.

Pregnant women still at risk for pregnancy or childbirth-related complications. Pexels from Pixabay