Preeclampsia is far more common in women's first pregnancy but the mechanism of this association is unknown. Altered angiogenesis, marked by increased levels of circulating soluble fms-like tyrosine kinase (sFlt-1), an inhibitor of placental growth factor (PlGF) and vascular endothelial growth factor, has been implicated in the pathogenesis of preeclampsia. We tested the hypothesis that nulliparous women demonstrate increased sFlt-1 levels compared with multiparous women, suggesting an overall increase in relative antiangiogenesis during first pregnancies. We measured sFlt-1 and PlGF levels in early pregnancy serum samples from the first 2 completed pregnancies of 97 women who participated in the MOMS cohort study. Repeated measures analyses demonstrated that sFlt-1 levels were significantly increased in first compared with second pregnancies (877+/-598 pg/mL vs 728+/-399 pg/mL; P=.01) but there was no significant difference in PlGF levels (45.3+/-40.7 pg/mL vs 40.1+/-31.9 pg/mL; P=.14). After adjusting for age, gestational age, blood pressure, body mass index, smoking, and the interpregnancy time interval, the residual decrease in sFlt-1 levels from the first to the second pregnancy remained significant at 107 pg/mL (P=.04). Significant interaction between ethnicity and pregnancy order on sFlt-1 levels was observed such that Hispanic women demonstrated greater sFlt-1 levels than white women during their first pregnancy but lower levels in their second pregnancies. Increased sFlt-1 secretion in first versus second pregnancies may account in part for the increased risk of preeclampsia among nulliparous women. Additional studies are needed to verify these findings and to further examine ethnic differences in angiogenesis factors and their potential impact on the incidence of preeclampsia.

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