Even if the mother and the baby survive, the mother could later have a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Meanwhile, the baby is often born prematurely and can suffer complications later in life.
Researchers from Britain's Cambridge and Nottingham Universities announced that they have discovered a mechanism that raises blood pressure in preeclampsia and argued that their work might help the search for new drugs for hypertension. They also believed that they had deciphered the first step in the main process that controls blood pressure: release of a hormone known as angiotensin, from its source protein, angiotensinogen. Their findings were published in the journal ‘Nature’ in October 2010.
Drugs currently used to treat high blood pressure include ACE inhibitors that block the production of angiotensin or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB), which prevents angiotensin from taking effect in the body once it is released. These drugs work well for standard hypertension but the pregnant women could not take these drugs because they are potentially dangerous to the developing baby.
The study, primarily focused on preeclampsia, also opened new leads for future research into the causes of hypertension in general. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), hypertension itself is the biggest risk factor for causes of death worldwide. Hypertension is also a risk factor for heart disease.
The cost of treating pregnant women with preeclampsia is estimated to be $45 billion a year in the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. An estimated 75,000 women in developing countries die of it each year.