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This is the first study to analyse the incidence and impact of fainting during pregnancy in a large population. Researchers examined 481,930 pregnancies in Alberta, Canada between 2005 and 2014 for trends in timing, frequency and health complications for infants and women occurring in the first year after pregnancy among women who fainted during their pregnancies.

They found 4,667 women had a fainting episode and nearly a third (32.3 per cent) of them occurred in the first trimester. About 44 per cent occurred in the second trimester and 23.6 per cent in the third trimester, while 8 per cent had more than one fainting episode.

Researchers also found:

  • The incidence of congenital anomalies among children born of pregnancies with multiple fainting episodes was 4.9 per cent, significantly higher than the 2.9 per cent among children of pregnancies with only one fainting spell.
  • The rate of premature birth, at 18.3 per cent, was higher in pregnancies with fainting during the first trimester, compared to 15.8 per cent during the second trimester, 14.2 per cent in the third trimester and 15 per cent for pregnancies without fainting.
  • Within one year after delivery, women who fainted during pregnancy had higher rates of abnormal heart rhythms and fainting episodes, compared to women who didn’t faint during pregnancy.
  • After an average follow-up of 4.5 to 5 years, the rates of congenital anomalies were 3.1 per cent for children of pregnancies with syncope compared 2.6 per cent for those without syncope.

“There are very limited data on the frequency of fainting during pregnancy,” said Padma Kaul, Ph.D., senior study author and professor of medicine at the University of Alberta in Canada. “In our study, fainting during pregnancy occurred in about 1 per cent, or 10 per 1,000 pregnancies, but appears to be increasing by 5 per cent each year.”

“Fainting during pregnancy has previously been thought to follow a relatively benign course,” Kaul said. “The findings of our study suggest that timing of fainting during pregnancy may be important. When the faint happens early during pregnancy or multiple times during pregnancy, it may be associated with both short and long term health issues for the baby and the mother.”

The data suggest that women who faint during pregnancy should have closer monitoring and potential follow-up with a cardiologist after the birth, she said.

Although the research provides real-world data on fainting during pregnancy in a large population base with universal health care, it has a few limitations.

Because the study is retrospective and observational it may underestimate the true incidence of syncope during pregnancy. Researchers said their findings should be confirmed in other large population-based studies.

Source: Medical Xpress

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