Women born prematurely are twice as likely to suffer major complications during their own pregnancyRisks include gestational diabetes and high blood pressurePremature birth 'could contribute to diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular problems' later in life
15:05 GMT, 25 September 2012
Warning: Pregnant women are more likely to suffer complications including high blood pressure and gestational diabetes if they were born early (file picture)
Women born prematurely are twice as likely to suffer major complications when they become pregnant themselves, research has shown.
They are at increased risk of problems including gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia, in which abnormal amounts of protein can kill both mother and child.
A study of more than 24,000 women by the University of Montreal found one in five of those who were delivered before 32 weeks, which is considered extremely premature, experienced at least one serious problem during pregnancy.
This compared to one in ten of those born at full term.
Professor Anne Monique Nuyt, a neonatologist at the University of Montreal in Canada, said: 'Many scientists consider pregnancy as like an open window to the future cardio and metabolic health of a woman.'
Overall, 19.9 per cent of women born very early had at least one pregnancy complication, compared with 13.2 per cent of those between 32 and 36 weeks and 11.7 per cent for those at term.
Prof Nuyt said the findings, published online in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, suggest physicians monitoring pregnancies should be asking patients about their own births.
However, she pointed out that obstetricians frequently screen for these pregnancy complications – and a strong association does not prove premature birth was the cause.
Previous studies have shown that adults with a low birth weight – associated with premature birth – are more likely to develop heart disease and metabolic conditions, such as diabetes, later in life.
Again, however, she emphasised the distinction between low birth weight and premature birth.
Tiny trigger One in five women who were extremely premature experienced a serious problem during pregnancy, compared to just one in ten of those born at full term (file picture)
Prof Nuyt said: 'The lower the birth weight, the higher the risk for those diseases occurring in adulthood.'
The study found a greater number of prematurely born women had higher diagnoses of chronic high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Prof Nuyt said that given the high survival rate of premature babies over the last 30 years – eight per cent of births are premature – it is possible the condition may contribute to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular problems later in life.
Dr William Mundle, spokesman for the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, said physicians must think about this when speaking with patients in assessing risks.
He added: 'This is really interesting and important information as a counselling tool. But really, we would want to see other studies that confirm this information before we start adding a huge extra burden, in terms of the worry that pregnant women have.'