Pregnancy causes significant metabolic and hemodynamic changes in a woman’s physiology to allow for fetal growth. The inability to adapt to these changes might result in the development of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (hypertension, preeclampsia or eclampsia), gestational diabetes and preterm birth. Contrary to previous beliefs these complications are not limited to the pregnancy period and may leave permanent vascular and metabolic damage. There is in addition, a direct association between these disorders and increased risk of future cardiovascular disease (CVD, including hypertension, ischemic heart disease, heart failure and stroke) and diabetes mellitus. Despite abundant evidence of this association, women who present with these complications of pregnancy do not receive adequate postpartum follow up and counseling regarding their increased risk of future CVD. The postpartum period in these women represents a unique opportunity to intervene with lifestyle modifications designed to reduce the development of premature cardiovascular complications. In some cases it allows early diagnosis and treatment of chronic hypertension or diabetes mellitus. The awareness of this relationship is growing in the medical community, especially among obstetricians and primary care physicians, who play a pivotal role in detecting these complications and assuring appropriate follow up.
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