Maternal serum cholesterol levels are elevated from the 1st trimester of pregnancy: A cross-sectional study

Use of pregnancy-specific reference ranges for cholesterol allows the early detection of maternal hypercholesterolaemia and may identify those at risk of cardiovascular disease.


Caroline Joyce, Keelin O'Donoghue

Journal Name
Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology
Journal Article
Full Citation

Bartels Ä, Egan N, Broadhurst DI, Khashan AS, Joyce C, Stapleton M, O'Mullane J, O'Donoghue K. Maternal serum cholesterol levels are elevated from the 1st trimester of pregnancy: a cross-sectional study.  Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 2012;32(8):747-52. doi: 10.3109/01443615.2012.714017.

Link to Publication


High levels of cholesterol in pregnancy have been linked with an increased risk of early delivery and the development of pregnancy-related disorders (e.g. gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia). However, normal reference values for cholesterol during pregnancy are not readily available to facilitate interpretation of cholesterol levels. In this study, over 200 women were recruited at different trimesters of pregnancy and immediately post-delivery. Our results show that total cholesterol levels are significantly elevated from the first trimester and rise steadily throughout pregnancy with levels dropping post-delivery but remaining higher than the non-pregnant reference range. Of note, fasting, smoking and maternal weight did not influence cholesterol levels. High cholesterol is not usually treated during pregnancy but it’s identification may help predict those women most likely to develop complications during pregnancy and in later life (e.g. cardiovascular disease). As a result, lifestyle interventions such as a cholesterol lowering diet may be implemented and a post-pregnancy clinical follow-up may be recommended. This study established pregnancy-specific reference ranges for cholesterol and other lipid (triglycerides, HDL and LDL) facilitating their monitoring during pregnancy.

Pregnancy Loss Research Group

Pregnancy Loss Research Group, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, University College Cork, Fifth Floor, Cork University Maternity Hospital, Wilton, Cork, T12 YE02, Ireland,