MARYLAND - Women who develop high blood pressure or diabetes in the course of pregnancy are more likely to give birth to children who develop conditions that may compromise their own heart health at a young age, scientists in the United States reported Feb 12.
By the time they are 12 years old, these children are more likely to be overweight or to be diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar, compared with children whose mothers had complication-free pregnancies.
The research underscores the strong association between healthy pregnancies and child health, though the study stops short of proving a cause-and-effect relationship. The conclusions also offer support for the “fetal origins of adult disease” hypothesis, which suggests that many chronic conditions may have roots in fetal adaptations to the uterine environment.
The findings come from a government-supported study that has followed an international cohort of 3,300 mother-and-child pairs for over a decade.
The research was presented at the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine’s annual pregnancy meeting in National Harbor, Maryland. An abstract was published in a supplement to the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology in January.
“It sets up a potentially vicious cycle for the children, where the child is at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, and then when these girls become women and get pregnant themselves, they’re already more likely to have more severe hypertension and diabetes in pregnancy,” said Dr Kartik K. Venkatesh, the paper’s first author, an obstetrician and perinatal health researcher at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.
The findings indicate the urgency of preventive care and early intervention, both during pregnancy and in early childhood, in order to stop the cycle, he added.
“The impact for the children is decades from now, so the question becomes: What can we do in the here and now to preserve their cardiovascular health across the life span?” Dr Venkatesh said.
“Can we pick up abnormalities in cardiovascular health early on, so that we can treat them and implement interventions that could change the long-term outcomes?”
Women who are planning a pregnancy, too, may benefit from seeking care even before they conceive, he added. More women are starting pregnancies with conditions – such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes &nda...