News Release

Researchers call for better management of long-term heart disease risk following complicated pregnancies

New resource from Boston Medical Center reviews best recommendations on standards of care

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Boston Medical Center

BOSTON – Researchers at Boston Medical Center have created a new resource for managing long-term heart disease risk after specific pregnancy complications. Heart disease risk is revealed by several common pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia and preterm delivery. The year following pregnancy is an important time to identify individuals at increased risk for future heart disease, provide counseling, and begin preventive care. However, clinicians lack a single source of comprehensive guidance for managing these risks.

This new review published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine synthesizes recommendations for primary care clinicians taking care of individuals after complicated pregnancies. These include:

  • Screening all people who have ever given birth, for a history of pregnancy complications associated with future heart disease risk
  • Comprehensive heart disease risk screening within the first postpartum year, for all those with pregnancy complications associated with future heart disease risk
  • Individualized counseling and lifestyle modification to reduce long-term heart disease risk 

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women, and there are many common pregnancy complications that are indicators of increased risk. These include preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and preterm delivery. Prior to this resource, there has not been a single publication with comprehensive information on how to assess and manage long-term heart disease risk after such complications.

“Our review synthesizes all the recommendations to provide a ‘one stop shop’ for primary care clinicians taking care of individuals in the year following a complicated pregnancy,” says Mara Murray Horwitz, MD MPH, a primary care physician in the Women’s Health Unit at Boston Medical Center. “We hope that our findings will lead to better identification and management of heart disease risk for many birthing people.”

In this systemic review, researchers searched U.S. clinical practice guidelines and professional society recommendations to inform primary care-based cardiovascular disease risk management after adverse pregnancy outcomes. Thirteen qualifying publications were identified, where relevant information was extracted and compiled into a practical guide for clinicians.

“The connections between pregnancy complications and future chronic diseases are becoming increasingly clear, but more studies are needed on how this pathway can be interrupted or modified,” says Murray Horwitz, who is also an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine. “Most recommendations for birthing people currently focus on postpartum lifestyle modification, but behavioral change can be difficult, especially in the postpartum context.”

Researchers believe that future studies should focus on how best to support postpartum individuals to promote their long-term heart health.


About Boston Medical Center

Boston Medical Center (BMC) is a private, not-for-profit, 514-bed, academic medical center that is the primary teaching affiliate of Boston University School of Medicine. It is the largest and busiest provider of trauma and emergency services in New England. BMC offers specialized care for complex health problems and is a leading research institution, receiving more than $166 million in sponsored research funding in fiscal year 2019. It is the 13th largest funding recipient in the U.S. from the National Institutes of Health among independent hospitals. In 1997, BMC founded Boston Medical Center Health Plan, Inc., now one of the top ranked Medicaid MCOs in the country, as a non-profit managed care organization. Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine are partners in Boston HealthNet – 12 community health centers focused on providing exceptional health care to residents of Boston. For more information, please visit

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