By Robert Preidt
"We believe that this study highlights an important finding that will be useful for medical providers caring for reproductive-age women," said study author Dr. Jessica Sheehan Tangren, a nephrologist from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
The researchers reviewed data from almost 25,000 women who gave birth at Massachusetts General Hospital between 1998 and 2007. Just over 100 of the women had previously experienced acute kidney injury. This is a sudden decrease in kidney function.
All of the women had recovered normal kidney function before they were pregnant.
Women in the kidney damage group had much higher rates of a condition called preeclampsia that causes high blood pressure and other problems during pregnancy -- 23 percent compared to 4 percent in the non-injury group.
Women who had kidney damage were also more likely to have small-for-gestational-age babies (15 percent versus 8 percent), and to give birth earlier (average 37.6 weeks compared to 39.2 weeks), the study showed.
Tangren and her colleagues adjusted the findings to account for other factors that could contribute to the risk.
Although the study wasn't designed to prove a cause-and-effect link, the researchers found prior kidney damage was tied to a nearly six times higher risk for preeclampsia.
Women with previous kidney damage also had more than twice the risk for poor infant outcomes.
The study was published online Dec. 22 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.
"Our goal in future studies is to address why women with a history of acute kidney injury are at higher risk for pregnancy complications and to identify strategies to lower their risk," Tangren said in a journal news release.
She also said that the varying rates of preeclampsia seen worldwide may be partly explained by the findings.