The Mayo Clinic Women's Health Research Center studies a variety of conditions that affect women's health during their reproductive years.

High blood pressure (hypertension) during pregnancy

Hypertension during pregnancy increases women's future risks of cardiovascular disease, but researchers don't know why. Investigators in the Mayo Clinic Women's Health Research Center are developing tests to identify the causes of pregnancy-related hypertension.

In addition, researchers are developing easy to use, noninvasive tests to identify which women may be at increased risk of hypertension after pregnancy. This knowledge will allow women and their health care provides to start preventive measures sooner to reduce the long-term consequences of high blood pressure on the heart and brain.

Pregnancy-related cardiac health

Heart failure after pregnancy (peripartum cardiomyopathy) is a major cause of complications and death among young mothers. The cause of peripartum cardiomyopathy is unknown, and no specific treatments are available.

Researchers in the Mayo Clinic Women's Health Research Center are collaborating with investigators from other institutions on clinical and basic science research to determine the cause of peripartum cardiomyopathy. Their goal is to develop a screening tool to identify patients earlier in the course of the disease and to develop disease-specific treatments to improve outcomes for women with peripartum cardiomyopathy.

Additionally, heart problems during pregnancy are increasingly common, particularly as more mothers are bearing children at older ages. Research regarding specific evaluation and treatment of pregnant women with heart problems is scarce, primarily because researchers are exceedingly cautious about studying pregnant women.

The Mayo Clinic Department of Internal Medicine and Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology are collaborating to offer a cardio-OB clinic dedicated to providing care for women with heart problems during pregnancy in order to develop protocols and establish best practices to provide optimal care for these women.

Spontaneous coronary artery dissection

The main artery to the heart sometimes rips during or after pregnancy or with stress in some women. This condition, known as spontaneous coronary artery dissection (SCAD),is life threatening.

Thanks to a generous donor, Mayo researchers have been able to start a collection of blood samples from women across the country who have had and recovered from SCAD in order to understand why this condition occurs. However, the work has just begun, as these samples need to be analyzed to determine whether there are specific genes that might cause this condition and whether women affected by SCAD are at increased risk of other heart conditions as they age.

Pregnancy remote monitoring

During the excitement and anticipation of pregnancy, women make many visits to their doctors. Mayo Clinic researchers discovered that these visits often don't happen at the times when women are most concerned about the changes happening to their bodies.

As a result, a new program was developed featuring remote, computer-based monitoring that allows more-frequent monitoring at the times that each woman needs it most. This research initiative was based on patient-driven ideas and allows women more-individualized control over health care decisions.

Rotator cuff tendonitis

In the Mayo Clinic Women's Health Research Center, biomedical engineers are partnering with physiologists and orthopedic and rehabilitation medicine to investigate how tendons get injured over time from overuse and how this process differs between women and men.

Rotator cuff tendonitis of the shoulder is most common in women ages 35 to 50. It leads to pain and arm weakness and may eventually need surgical repair. Prevention and treatment of rotator cuff tendinitis is not optimized because there is not a clear understanding of when the disease process starts and how quickly it progresses.