High-sensitivity C-reactive protein use in cardiovascular risk screening at 6 to 12 months postpartum following hypertensive disorders of pregnancy

Published:October 19, 2022DOI:


      BACKGROUND: Patients with a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy are more likely to have underlying cardiovascular risk factors and are at increased risk of future cardiovascular disease. These patients are more likely to be diagnosed with new-onset chronic hypertension and meet the criteria for metabolic syndrome postpartum. High-sensitivity C-reactive protein is a marker of general inflammation and may be used to identify increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
      OBJECTIVE: This collaborative data-sharing study between Yale University, United States (Yale Hearts Moms study) and Queen's University, Canada (Maternal Health Clinic) aimed to study the utility of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein in postpartum cardiovascular risk screening, as determined by 30-year risk (Framingham) and metabolic syndrome 6 to 12 months postpartum.
      STUDY DESIGN: Patients with a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy (n=478) or an uncomplicated, term pregnancy (n=90) had cardiovascular risk screening and risk scoring performed at 6 to 12 months postpartum. Patients were excluded if they had a multiple gestation or chronic hypertension, diabetes mellitus, or cardiovascular disease diagnosed before pregnancy. Patients were categorized according to high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (mg/L) into Normal (<3.0), High (3.1 to <10.0), and Acute (≥10.0) groups. The primary outcome of the study was risk for future cardiovascular events, calculated through surrogate measures such as hypertension and cholesterol. Kruskal–Wallis and chi-square tests were used to compare groups, with post hoc tests corrected using the Bonferroni method. Multivariable logistic regression was used to assess the association between high-sensitivity C-reactive protein and cardiovascular risk, adjusting for relevant medical and sociodemographic variables. Analysis was completed with IBM SPSS Statistics, version 27.
      RESULTS: Patients in the High and Acute high-sensitivity C-reactive protein groups were more likely to have a body mass index ≥30, to have experienced a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy, to have a lower household income, and to have not breastfed or to have breastfed for <6 months, when compared with the Normal high-sensitivity C-reactive protein group (all P<.05). Patients in the High and Acute high-sensitivity C-reactive protein groups had higher 30-year cardiovascular risk scores and were more likely to have metabolic syndrome when compared with the Normal high-sensitivity C-reactive protein group (all P<.05). Patients with High high-sensitivity C-reactive protein had 2-fold odds of metabolic syndrome 6 to 12 months after delivery, compared with those in the Normal high-sensitivity C-reactive protein group (adjusted odds ratio, 2.85 [95% confidence interval, 1.66–4.91]), adjusting for hypertensive disorder of pregnancy, body mass index, clinic site, breastfeeding, income, and family history of cardiovascular disease. Those with Acute high-sensitivity C-reactive protein also seemed to have elevated odds of metabolic syndrome compared with the Normal high-sensitivity C-reactive protein group (adjusted odds ratio, 2.52 [95% confidence interval, 1.24–5.12]). The odds of chronic hypertension were significantly higher (P<.05) in the High high-sensitivity C-reactive protein group (adjusted odds ratio, 1.72 [95% confidence interval, 1.12–2.65]) compared with the Normal group.
      CONCLUSION: Individuals with elevated postpartum high-sensitivity C-reactive protein are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease 6 to 12 months postpartum after a pregnancy complicated by a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy. Future research is critical to determine the most comprehensive and accurate method and timing of postpartum cardiovascular risk screening to decrease the incidence of preventable cardiovascular mortality among women.

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