Nearly 3,500 first time mums will be taking part in a study to understand a condition that affects pregnant women.
Led by Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, it aims to explain why some women develop pre-eclampsia and other placental complications.
The large-scale study is also examining how these complications can impact women’s long-term health.
Women planning their first pregnancies in Cambridge, London and Glasgow have been invited to participate.
Pre-eclampsia is a condition that can affect pregnant women from the 20th week of pregnancy.
Symptoms can include high blood pressure and protein in the urine, and it can lead to serious complications if not monitored or treated.
Women suspected of developing pre-eclampsia are advised to take up to 150mg of aspirin a day from the 12th week of pregnancy to reduce the risk.
The only cure for the condition is to deliver the baby around the 38th week of pregnancy – although in severe cases this can be earlier.
Those who experience placental complications are twice as likely to develop heart disease and diabetes later in life.
It is not clear if these complications cause these conditions directly or if they happen in women who already have unknown health issues before pregnancy.
Dr Bernadette Jenner, who is leading the study, said there was a “significant lack of understanding” about placental conditions, despite how common they are and the fact they can be life-threatening.
“We need to know what really causes them and why,” she said.
Prof Ian Wilkinson, who is also leading the study, described it as a “world first”.
He said it would hopefully give a better understanding as to why “common complications of pregnancy adversely affect women’s long-term cardiovascular health”.
The study is being led by a team from Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Cambridge.
Work is also taking place in Glasgow and four other research centres in London.
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