A US study suggested that long-term heart risks, once only associated with pre-eclampsia, may also apply to women with just one or two bouts of high BP during pregnancy.
Researchers said GPs should check all women with any recorded hypertension during pregnancy for cardiovascular risk factors.
An international team of researchers had examined 40 years of data on 10,314 Finnish women who gave birth in 1966. They compared women with and without instances of high BP during pregnancy, including new-onset as well as chronic hypertension and pre-eclampsia.
They found that 17% of the women had at least one BP reading over 145/90mmHg during pregnancy, and these women had a lifetime risk of cardiovascular disease up to 18% higher than women without high BP.
Isolated high systolic BP was linked to a 43% greater risk of heart failure, a 42% higher risk of diabetes, and a 2.2-fold greater risk of dying from MI. Women with isolated high diastolic BP had a 26% greater incidence of ischaemic heart disease and 77% higher risk of kidney disease.
Cardiovascular risks were even greater among women with chronic hypertension or pre-eclampsia.
Researchers said the extra strain that pregnancy places on the cardiovascular system may reveal underlying susceptibility to chronic disease.
Lead author Tuija Männistö PhD of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in Rockville, Maryland, said: 'According to our findings, women who have had high BP during pregnancy or who are diagnosed with high BP in pregnancy for the first time might benefit from comprehensive heart disease risk factor checks by their physicians, to decrease their long-term risk of heart diseases.'