Maternal weight change from prepregnancy to 18 months postpartum and subsequent risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease in Danish women: A cohort study

Helene Kirkegaard*, Mette Bliddal, Henrik Støvring, Kathleen M. Rasmussen, Erica P. Gunderson, Lars Køber, Thorkild I.A. Sørensen, Ellen A. Nøhr

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background One-fourth of women experience substantially higher weight years after childbirth. We examined weight change from prepregnancy to 18 months postpartum according to subsequent maternal risk of hypertension and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Methods and findings We conducted a cohort study of 47,966 women with a live-born singleton within the Danish National Birth Cohort (DNBC; 1997–2002). Interviews during pregnancy and 6 and 18 months postpartum provided information on height, gestational weight gain (GWG), postpartum weights, and maternal characteristics. Information on pregnancy complications, incident hypertension, and CVD was obtained from the National Patient Register. Using Cox regression, we estimated adjusted hazard ratios (HRs; 95% confidence interval [CI]) for hypertension and CVD through 16 years of follow-up. During this period, 2,011 women were diagnosed at the hospital with hypertension and 1,321 with CVD. The women were on average 32.3 years old (range 18.0–49.2) at start of follow-up, 73% had a prepregnancy BMI <25, and 27% a prepregnancy BMI ≥25. Compared with a stable weight (±1 BMI unit), weight gains from prepregnancy to 18 months postpartum of >1–2 and >2 BMI units were associated with 25% (10%–42%), P = 0.001 and 31% (14%–52%), P < 0.001 higher risks of hypertension, respectively. These risks were similar whether weight gain presented postpartum weight retention or a new gain from 6 months to 18 months postpartum and whether GWG was below, within, or above the recommendations. For CVD, findings differed according to prepregnancy BMI. In women with normal-/underweight, weight gain >2 BMI units and weight loss >1 BMI unit were associated with 48% (17%–87%), P = 0.001 and 28% (6%–55%), P = 0.01 higher risks of CVD, respectively. Further, weight loss >1 BMI unit combined with a GWG below recommended was associated with a 70% (24%–135%), P = 0.001 higher risk of CVD. No such increased risks were observed among women with overweight/obesity (interaction by prepregnancy BMI, P = 0.01, 0.03, and 0.03, respectively). The limitations of this observational study include potential confounding by prepregnancy metabolic health and self-reported maternal weights, which may lead to some misclassification. Conclusions Postpartum weight retention/new gain in all mothers and postpartum weight loss in mothers with normal-/underweight may be associated with later adverse cardiovascular health.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1003486
JournalPLoS Medicine
Issue number4
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2. Apr 2021

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Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Kirkegaard et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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