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Oct 18, 2017

High Blood Pressure During Pregnancy Increases Risk for Childhood Obesity

This condition is not only concerning for mothers, but it has a lasting effect on children’s health.

A mother’s blood pressure during pregnancy has a lasting effect on their child’s health, based on a recent study that links hypertension during pregnancy to increased risk for childhood obesity.

Published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, this study explored the association between high blood pressure during pregnancy and risk for childhood obesity.

High blood pressure is a dangerous condition that occurs when the force of blood against the artery walls becomes is too high, increasing risk for life-threatening heart events. When it comes to pregnancy, high blood pressure is of particular concern because it’s linked to a number of health risks in both mother and baby. Most recently, studies raised concerns about the impact of high blood pressure during pregnancy on childhood obesity—a major public health concern.

To further investigate, researchers analyzed data from a Chinese health monitoring system called the Jiaxing Birth Cohort. From 1999–2013, this system tracked the health of 88,406 pairs of mothers and children from a middle-income area in southeast China. During the study period, the women’s blood pressure was tracked throughout pregnancy. The children’s health was tracked from ages 4–7. By the end of the study, 9% of children were overweight or obese based on their body mass index (BMI), which is a ratio of height to weight.

After analysis, researchers found that women with high blood pressure in their second trimester were 49% more likely to have a child that was overweight or obese by age 7. Additionally, women with high blood pressure in the third trimester had 14% higher risk of having an obese or overweight child.

Researchers also found that each 10 mmHg increase in the mother’s systolic (upper number in a blood pressure reading) or diastolic blood pressure (lower number) was associated with a 5–8% increase in childhood obesity risk.

In this study, high blood pressure was defined as having blood pressure greater than 90/140 mmHg.

According to the authors, what this study confirms is that high blood pressure during pregnancy contributes to increased risk for childhood obesity. Not only do findings highlight the importance of close blood pressure monitoring during pregnancy, they suggest that preventing high blood pressure during pregnancy may prove useful in combatting record rates of childhood obesity.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is hypertension?
  • Hypertension, often referred to as high blood pressure, occurs when the force of blood against the artery walls is too high. High blood pressure is often referred to as the “silent killer,” because it often causes no symptoms and if left uncontrolled, increases risk for heart attack and stroke.
  • What is a healthy weight for children?
  • Body mass index (BMI) is used to determine whether a child falls into an underweight, healthy weight, overweight or obese range. For children, BMI is calculated using height and weight, and takes into account both age and gender. Children with a BMI falling between the 5th and 85th percentile are considered a healthy weight.

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Infographic: High Blood Pressure