Women who have high-risk pregnancies or complications in childbirth are up to eight times more likely to suffer heart disease later in life. And many mothers — and their doctors — are unaware of the danger. Emerging research shows heart disease is a long-term threat for women who develop diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy, for example, or those whose babies are born prematurely or precariously small.
Yet doctors do not typically advise women about their risk or counsel them to watch for symptoms, said Noel Bairey Merz, a cardiologist and director of the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles. Bairey Merz said doctors can see heart attacks and strokes coming, often 10 or 20 years ahead of time, if they are on the lookout. “This isn’t rocket science,” she said. “We just have to figure out how we can find the women who are at risk.”