Pregnant women with PCOS may be susceptible to heart complications during delivery, study finds

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Experts say there are long-term heart health risks for women with PCOS

A new study conducted by researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine explored some of the pregnancy risks for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). According to their findings, pregnant women with the hormone condition may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular issues during delivery. 

“Oftentimes, women with PCOS are understandably concerned about the immediate effects of, like an irregular menstrual cycle, excess body hair, weight gain, and acne,” said researcher Dr. Erin Michos. “However, the long-term cardiovascular complications are also a serious problem.” 

The risk of pregnancy complications

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from over 17 million births between 2002 and 2019. The team broke down how many women had PCOS while pregnant. 

Among the more than 195,000 women who had PCOS at the time of delivery, it was clear that there was a link between PCOS and cardiovascular complications during pregnancy. Blood clots proved to be the biggest risk: Women with PCOS were more than 80% more likely to develop a blood clot during delivery. There was a nearly 80% higher risk for a weakened heart, a 76% higher risk of heart failure, and a 56% higher risk of preeclampsia. Women with PCOS were also twice as likely to have abnormal heartbeats at the time of delivery. 

It’s also important to note that there were other health and demographic factors that came into play for pregnant women with PCOS. The researchers learned that Black women with PCOS were at a higher risk of heart complications during delivery, while all women with PCOS were more likely to be obese, have high cholesterol, and struggle with diabetes. 

Moving forward, the researchers hope that these findings highlight the associated long-term heart health risks that are prevalent among women with PCOS. 

“Our study shows that PCOS is indeed a risk factor for acute cardiac complications at the time of delivery and should be taken seriously,” said researcher Salman Zahid. “We want to stress the importance of optimizing the cardiovascular health of women with PCOS with prevention efforts, especially Black women and lower socioeconomic groups because we believe that those are the most vulnerable populations and will benefit most from intervention.” 

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