Women who develop a form of extremely high blood pressure, called preeclampsia, during pregnancy are likely to be at risk of facing long-term health problems later in life, according to a recent study. The researchers said this condition may lead the women to a wide variety of cardiovascular problems years after they give birth.

It is a well known fact that hypertension and diabetes or high blood pressure and high blood sugar are the two most complicated health problems faced by a woman in pregnancy. They are also associated with long-term consequences for the mother and the child later in life.

Gestational hypertension affects six to nine percent of women during pregnancy and it can develop into a potentially life-threatening version of high blood pressure later in pregnancy, the study stated. This condition can progress into a form of heart failure known as “diastolic dysfunction”.  It happens when the heart fails to fill with blood properly, the research team stated.

In the previous studies, the so-called gestational hypertension has been associated with serious complications for pregnant women, including excess bleeding delivery, reversible blindness, seizure, heart failure and stroke.

In the latest research, published in the Australasian Journal of Ultrasound in Medicine last month, focused on the various complications tied to preeclampsia or gestational hypertension. It is a review study that analyzed the results of 13 previously published studies.

After the analysis, the research team found that 19 percent of women who had this more serious form of hypertension during pregnancy developed diastolic dysfunction. But only 5.4 percent of women with uncomplicated pregnancies developed this condition.

The scientists also found that nearly 25 percent of women with preeclampsia developed heart failure within four to 10 years after giving birth. But only seven percent of women with uncomplicated pregnancies developed this condition.

“Previous studies had demonstrated cardiac dysfunction in women with a history of pre-eclampsia but this paper brings together the results of those studies to try and better understand the extent of the problem and the patterns of dysfunction,” lead researcher Archana Thayaparan, who is working at Western Health in Victoria, Australia, told Reuters.

“This is important for patients as no large studies have been done to investigate this, and most women with pre-eclampsia are unaware of the potential long-term consequences and increased risk of heart disease and stroke,” the researcher added.

At the end of the study, the research team noted that women who had preeclampsia must get regular echocardiograms for monitoring their heart to find out the various changes that may not be causing any symptoms yet.