High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy Tied to Obesity in Children

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High blood pressure during pregnancy poses serious risks to mothers and babies. It may also increase the risk for childhood obesity, a new study reports.

Chinese researchers studied 88,406 mother-child pairs, with complete data on maternal blood pressure during pregnancy and multiple follow-ups between ages 4 and 7 for the children. About 10 percent of the children were overweight or obese.

In the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, each 10-unit increase in systolic (the top number) or diastolic (the bottom number) blood pressure was associated with a 5 to 8 percent increase in the risk for childhood obesity, even among women who were not hypertensive. Among all women, whatever their blood pressure before pregnancy, a reading higher than 140/90 in the second trimester was associated with a 49 percent increase in the risk for childhood obesity, and in the third trimester a 14 percent increase.

The study, in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, controlled for maternal age, body mass index, education, number of previous pregnancies and other factors.

Fewer than 4 percent of American women have dangerously high blood pressure during pregnancy, according to the National Institutes of Health. But the lead author, Ju-Sheng Zheng, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Cambridge, said that “the majority of women who are not hypertensive are still at risk when their blood pressure increases, even to levels not generally considered dangerous. There is still that obesity risk to offspring.”