Pregnancy Complications: Study Reveals Increased Cardiovascular Risks for Both Mothers and Children

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

In a study presented today at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s (SMFM) annual meeting, researchers have revealed that hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP) and gestational diabetes (GDM) may not only put pregnant people at increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease later in life but may also result in worse cardiovascular health for the child.

The research was conducted on 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 HDP and GDM and a child’s cardiovascular health. On the maternal side, 8% developed high blood pressure during pregnancy, 12% developed gestational diabetes, and 3% developed both high blood pressure and diabetes.

The researchers then examined the child’s cardiovascular health ten to fourteen years after delivery. Cardiovascular health was evaluated 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 more than half of the children (55.5%) had at least one metric that was non-ideal before the age of twelve (median age: 11.6), putting them at greater risk of heart disease and stroke.

These findings are significant because traditionally it has been thought that a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease begins after birth – everyone starts at the same point. These data suggest that what happens in the womb can affect the child across their lifespan. The abstract was published in the January 2024 supplement of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

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