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Preeclampsia in overweight pregnant women - an introduction to an ongoing study

overweight pregnant woman

As you may know, Eva works extensively with patients who have obesity, specifically women with a BMI over 35. At the same time, she coordinates various studies in this field.

My name is Vangelis, and I am one of Eva's doctoral students. Today, I will present an ongoing study related to inflammation and pregnancy.

Cytokines and adipokines

As we already know, obesity is a condition in which the body is in a chronic inflammatory state. Various molecular substances called adipokines are produced through adipose tissue, and they have different functions.

One interesting family of adipokines is the proteins called cytokines.

They are secreted by inflammatory white blood cells and some non-inflammatory cells, and their functions resemble those of hormones.

However, they differ from typical hormones as they are produced by various types of tissues or cells and act more locally.

We already know that individuals with higher BMI have a different profile of these peptides compared to those with lower BMI. During pregnancy, different adipokines are produced in the first trimester compared to the second trimester, and so on.

There is also data from various studies regarding women who have developed preeclampsia. It has been found that these women have a different profile of cytokines in their blood compared to women who have not developed preeclampsia.


Preeclampsia is a syndrome characterized by the development of high blood pressure during pregnancy. Organs such as the kidneys and liver can be affected, and neurological complications may arise.

It is 3 to 4 times more common in pregnant women with higher BMI and can be potentially dangerous.

With one of our studies, we aim to measure cytokine levels in the blood during the first trimester when women take blood samples at the maternity healthcare center.

We wonder if these cytokines differ between women with a BMI over 35 and whether they have developed preeclampsia or not.

In a previous study conducted in Taiwan, a certain difference was found. If we can confirm these findings, we could provide better consultations and monitoring for these patients during pregnancy.

Study Procedure

We have sent letters to all our patients who gave birth in 2019 and 2020, asking for their consent to access their blood samples already stored in the Biobank. So far, we have received consent from about one-third of our patients, but we are waiting for a few more responses.

Next, we will analyze their blood samples using various molecular tests in the laboratory. This will allow us to determine if there are differences between our patients who developed preeclampsia.

Then, we will assess our results using statistics and try to understand what is happening. We will also consider how to best utilize the new knowledge.

Adipose Tissue Comparison

In another sub-study, we will take adipose tissue samples from women who developed preeclampsia and women who did not. We will compare whether the adipose tissue in both groups produces the same proportion/profile of cytokines.

The hypothesis behind this is that preeclampsia may alter the production of cytokines, which could potentially explain why women with preeclampsia have a higher risk of developing high blood pressure later on.

Much about what happens in adipose tissue is still unknown. It remains a puzzle why some women experience preeclampsia while others do not.

The results of the study will be published in scientific journals once the analysis is complete. We will certainly share the results here as well!

But before that, we will describe other ongoing studies involving pregnant women with a high BMI in a future blog post.


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