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The purpose of the HELPFUL study is to help understand more about the heart and blood vessel changes that occur across the body during later life, following a hypertensive (high blood pressure) pregnancy.

Study Background

Women who experience high blood pressure during pregnancy are at increased risk of developing cardiac and vascular diseases later in life. They show changes in their heart, brain, and blood vessels long before they develop high blood pressure. We therefore think that these changes develop slowly over the course of the life of the woman and establish their risk of later disease.

Through better understanding of the pattern of changes across multiple parts of the body over extended periods of time, we aim to identify how advanced the underlying disease is for an individual and how the disease is likely to develop over the next few years. By comparing the rate of change across different parts of the body, we can investigate how one area affects another.

Data including images of the heart, brain and blood vessels will be acquired in women 10 to 25 years after their pregnancy. The data that we collect will help us to learn more about why hypertension and cardiovascular disease develop in certain groups of women. This will then allow better interventions and therapies to be created that are tailored uniquely towards individuals.

Study Objectives

Women who have hypertensive pregnancies are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease in later life compared to women who have no complications during pregnancy. The exact cause and way in which cardiovascular disease develops after a hypertensive pregnancy is not completely understood. Therefore, this study will use new imaging techniques of the heart and brain to learn more about the pattern of changes that occur across the body during later life.

Study Recruitment

We are hoping to recruit 200 participants to help us with this study, of which 100 will have experienced a hypertensive pregnancy and 100 will have experienced a normotensive (normal blood pressure) pregnancy. We are asking previous participants of the PVS research study to take part, or participants may be identified as appropriate to participate in this study from John Radcliffe Hospital maternity records that have been reviewed by the clinical team.

Study Visits

There is one study visit as part of the HELPFUL Study which will last up to 4 hours. This visit will take place at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. The visit will include an MRI scan and echocardiography (ultrasound) to take pictures of the heart, lung function assessment (spirometry), exercise testing, recordings of blood pressure, as well as retinal and ear microvascular imaging (collecting images of the small blood vessels in the back of the eye and the ear), and blood sampling. During this visit, we will also collect demographic and anthropometric data, and you will be asked to complete a questionnaire. The study visit will finish with you being provided with a wrist worn activity tracker to wear for 7 days.

Research Funding

The study is supported with funding from the Medical Research Council.

Study Approvals

The study has been approved by the London-Surrey Research Ethics Committee (Reference 22/LO/0781).

Stylized heart image in blue