Study suggests that pregnancy complications could lead to poorer cardiovascular health for the child

Maternal Pregnancy Complications Linked to Child’s Cardiovascular Health: Study Finds High Risk of Non-Ideal Metrics for Over Half of Children

Pregnancy complications such as hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP) and gestational diabetes (GDM) increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life. In a new study to be presented at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s (SMFM) annual meeting, researchers have found that these pregnancy complications may also affect the cardiovascular health of the child.

In a secondary analysis of 3,317 maternal-child pairings from the prospective Hyperglycemia and Adverse Pregnancy Outcome Follow-up Study (HAPO FUS), researchers examined whether there was a connection between hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and gestational diabetes and a child’s cardiovascular health. On the maternal side, 8 percent developed high blood pressure during pregnancy, 12 percent developed gestational diabetes, and 3 percent developed both high blood pressure and diabetes.

Researchers then evaluated the child’s cardiovascular health 10 to 14 years after delivery. Cardiovascular health was assessed based on four metrics: body mass index, blood pressure, total cholesterol, and glucose level. Pediatric guidelines categorized each metric as ideal, intermediate, or poor. The findings were alarming as before the age of 12 (median age: 11.6), more than half of the children (55.5%) had at least one metric that was non-ideal, which puts them at greater risk of heart disease and stroke.

These findings suggest that what happens in the womb can affect a child’s cardiovascular health across their lifespan. The abstract was published in the January 2024 supplement of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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