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Metabolic syndrome and the risk of placental dysfunction


Background — Placental dysfunction (PD), which may manifest partly as the hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and abruption or infarction of the placenta, occurs more commonly in women with obesity, chronic hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and dyslipidemia-each a major feature of the metabolic syndrome. However, the relationship between the metabolic syndrome and the future risk of PD or fetal demise is unknown.

Methods — We completed a retrospective cohort study of 1.03 million women who had a first documented delivery in the province of Ontario between 1990 and 2002. Using linked administrative databases, we categorized women as having zero, one, two, or three to four features of the metabolic syndrome up to 24 months before their index delivery hospitalization. Women were considered to have placental dysfunction if they had a diagnosis of preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, placental abruption, or placental infarction during their first hospitalization for delivery in the period of study.

Results — At the time of delivery, 75 380 women (7.3%) were diagnosed as having PD. There was a progressive increase in the risk of PD in women with one (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 3.1; 95% confidence interval [CI] 3.0-3.1), two (OR 5.5; 95% CI 5.2-5.8), or three to four (OR 7.7; 95% CI 6.7-8.9) features of the metabolic syndrome, compared with none. A similar gradient effect was seen for the combined outcome of PD with poor fetal growth, or of PD with concomitant fetal death.

Conclusions — Women who exhibit features of the metabolic syndrome before pregnancy have a higher graded risk of PD and fetal demise. Studies are needed to determine whether modifying a woman's metabolic profile before pregnancy, through modest caloric restriction and increased physical activity, can lower her future risk of PD.



Ray JG, Vermeulen MJ, Schull MJ, McDonald S, Redelmeier DA. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2005; 27(12):1095-101.

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