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Condom Use Linked to
Risk of Preeclampsia

Excerpt By Jacqueline Stenson, Reuter's Health

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


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