Hypertension During Pregnancy Increases Child's Obesity Risks

Findings highlight the need to monitor blood pressure during pregnancy, especially in the second trimester.

Childhood obesity has become a global health crisis, with millions of children under age 5 classified as overweight or obese. Numerous factors can increase the child’s risk of becoming overweight, including prenatal factors and lifestyle.

Findings from a new study published by the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism suggest that mothers who have high blood pressure during pregnancy may increase the risk of their child developing obesity.

“Our study is the first to demonstrate that among pregnant women, elevated blood pressure is associated with a greater risk of overweight and obesity for their children,” said first author Ju-Sheng Zheng, PhD. “The risk still existed for children of women who didn’t have hypertension, but whose blood pressure during pregnancy was at the high end of the normal range.”

The authors analyzed the blood pressure levels and weight of 88,406 mothers and their children who participated in the Jiaxing Birth Cohort. The mothers’ blood pressure for all 3 trimesters was examined and children were weighed between the ages of 4 and 7 years.

The authors discovered that children born to mothers who had high blood pressure during the second trimester were 49% more likely to be overweight or obese compared with children born to mothers with lower blood pressure, according to the study.

Additionally, children born to mothers who had high blood pressure during the third trimester were 14% more likely to be overweight or obese.

The authors noted that the mother’s body size was not a factor in their child developing obesity.

These findings suggest that maintaining normal blood pressure—especially during the second trimester—is critically important for normal body weight of offspring.

"The results indicate that all pregnant women and their doctors should monitor and try to limit a substantial increase in blood pressure in mid-to-late pregnancy,” Zheng said. “This may help reduce the likelihood of their children being affected by obesity.