WOMEN who develop preeclampsia, a form of dangerously high blood pressure during pregnancy, are five times more likely to develop end-stage kidney disease later in life than women who have normal blood pressure during pregnancy, a study suggests.

Preeclampsia has long been linked to an increased risk of events like heart attacks and strokes years later, and some previous research also suggest that this form of high blood pressure might also be one reason why women are more likely to develop advanced kidney disease than men.

For the current study, women who had preeclampsia in two pregnancies were more than seven times more likely to develop end-stage kidney disease than mothers who never had preeclampsia.

“This study shows that pre-eclampsia is a sex-specific, independent risk factor for the subsequent development of end-stage kidney disease,” said lead study author Ali Khashan, a public health researcher at University College Cork in Ireland.

“However, the overall end-stage kidney disease risk remains small, and women with a history of preeclampsia should not be overly concerned,” Khashan said.

Women who develop preeclampsia earlier in pregnancy – before the halfway point – are more than nine times more likely to develop end-stage kidney disease than mothers with normal blood pressure during pregnancy.

The challenge with preeclampsia is that women often don’t experience symptoms until they have a life-threatening problem, especially when they’re otherwise healthy and have uncomplicated pregnancies.

Kidney failure, also called end-stage kidney disease, is most commonly caused by diabetes or high blood pressure. Other causes can include autoimmune diseases and genetic disorders or chronic urinary tract problems.

Women in the study who had preeclampsia were older on average and had a higher body mass index.

Among women with no preeclampsia in the first pregnancy, 14,2% were overweight and 4,9% were obese. Among women who did develop preeclampsia in their first pregnancy, 20,1% were overweight and 11,8% were obese.

It’s possible that risk factors like obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes contribute to both preeclampsia and kidney failure down the line, researchers noted.

“We were able to account for maternal obesity and comorbidities such as diabetes, and the reported results are independent of these factors,” Khashan said. “These factors cannot be ruled out completely as potential mediators between preeclampsia and end stage kidney disease.” – REUTERS HEALTH