Use Linked to
Risk of Preeclampsia
LOS ANGELES (Reuters Health) - Women who are not exposed to a
partner's sperm prior to pregnancy because the couple used condoms
may be at increased risk for developing pregnancy-induced high
blood pressure, a new study concludes.
The findings suggest that when the uterus is repeatedly exposed
to sperm, a woman's immune system may become accustomed to this
"foreign" genetic material, said Dr. Jon Einarsson, an obstetrician/gynecologist
at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.
However, when a woman's body has only recently been introduced
to the sperm because she stopped using barrier contraception and
was trying to conceive, she may have an immune reaction that causes
damage to the walls of blood vessels and contributes to pregnancy-induced
hypertension, a condition known as preeclampsia, suggested Einarsson.
This reaction may be heightened because the placenta produces
paternal proteins similar to those on sperm, he told Reuters Health.
Preeclampsia affects about 7% of pregnant women, yet little
is understood about why the condition develops, according to the
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). It
poses a risk to both the mother and the developing fetus. In severe
cases, it can lead to maternal seizures and, rarely, to death.
At the ACOG annual meeting here Wednesday, Einarsson presented
a study involving 113 women who had preeclampsia during their
pregnancies and another 226 women who did not.
Those who used barrier contraceptive methods and had only been
having sex with their partners for a short period of time were
at the greatest risk.
"Women who used barrier methods who had been having sex with
their partners for less than 4 months prior to getting pregnant
had a 6.5-fold increased risk of getting preeclampsia, compared
with women who did not use barrier methods and had been in a sexual
relationship for more than 12 months," he said.
Most women in the study who reported using barrier contraception
relied on condoms, although some also used diaphragms. Women who
relied on the withdrawal method also were included in this group.
"Women who use barrier methods exclusively prior to pregnancy
should consider changing to an alternative method 4 to 6 months
prior to getting pregnant, especially if they have other risk
factors for preeclampsia, such as diabetes, high blood pressure
or if they are overweight," Einarsson recommended.
Reference Source 89