A study has found that children born to mothers who develop a dangerous condition during pregnancy are more likely to die postpartum and in adolescence.
Chinese researchers tracked 2.4 million children born in a European country over the first two decades of their lives.
They included about 100,000 women suffering from hypertensive pregnancy disorder (HDP) — a group of conditions including preeclampsia, eclampsia, and high blood pressure. Two-thirds had preeclampsia or eclampsia.
The results showed that children born to women who had one of these conditions were 26 percent more likely to die from any cause than children who did not.
The leading cause of death for the group was perinatal problems — developing in the womb — but they were also at higher risk of heart, digestive and urinary problems, among other problems.
The researchers suspected that this was because the pregnancy conditions created an “unfavorable” environment in the womb that harmed the baby’s development.
Celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Beyonce both suffered from preeclampsia during pregnancy.
About one in ten pregnant women has preeclampsia — high blood pressure and higher levels of protein in the urine — the researchers said.
The graph above shows the mortality rate in infants of mothers who suffered from a hypertensive condition such as preeclampsia (blue line) in pregnancy and in children who did not face the condition (yellow dotted line).
Kim Kardashian (left) and Beyonce (right) both faced preeclampsia during pregnancy and have spoken openly about their ordeal
HDP is already known to increase the risk of diabetes, immune problems and mental development problems in young children.
However, little research has been done on how this affects children later in life.
This study, published today in the BMJ, is believed to be the first to look at the risk of death from HDP in such a large group of infants.
It was led by researchers from Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and Aarhus University in Denmark.
For the paper, scientists combed national records in Denmark for children born between 1978 and 2018.
Each person was tracked until their death, emigration, or late 2018, whichever came first.
They were observed for an average of about 19 years and no longer than 41 years.
During that time, there were 20,140 deaths among the youth.
A total of 17 deaths were recorded from the 662 children born to mothers with eclampsia, while 781 died from the 66,900 born to mothers with preeclampsia.
Another 223 deaths were recorded among the 33,510 children born to mothers with hypertension.
But among the children of women who had normal pregnancies, there were 19,119 deaths out of 2.3 million adolescents.
The researchers then calculated a rate per 100,000 children to allow comparison between the different groups and adjusted for risk factors such as year of birth, gender, maternal age and family income.
Analysis showed that children born to mothers with eclampsia were 188 percent more likely to die than children born to mothers with normal pregnancies.
Giving birth to a mother with preeclampsia increased the risk of death by 29 percent, while giving birth to a mother with high blood pressure increased it by 12 percent.
dr Cheng Huang, a demographer at Fudan University, and others suggested in the article that HDP could lead to “dysfunction” in the placenta.
“HDP-related placental dysfunction is associated with impaired fetal development and could have a negative long-term impact on the health of the offspring,” they said.
However, the researchers noted that their study was observational and could not prove what the underlying cause was.
Kim Kardashian has revealed she suffered from pre-eclampsia while carrying her eldest daughter North, who is now nine years old.
She eventually gave birth to North about six weeks early after labor was induced.
Beyonce also experienced the condition while pregnant with her twins, Rumi and Sir, who are both now five years old.
She said at the time that she suffered from significant swelling and was on bed rest for a month before the twins were delivered via emergency C-section.
Preeclampsia is when a mother has high blood pressure and/or high protein levels in the urine, which indicate kidney damage.
It usually begins in the 20th week of pregnancy, with the only cure being to deliver the baby.
Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, headache, upper right abdominal pain, and a general feeling of being sick or unwell.
Bed rest is recommended for most mothers who suffer from it to lower their blood pressure.
In more severe cases, they may also be hospitalized for monitoring until their baby is ready to be born.
Eclampsia can also occur if the mother has seizures or goes into a coma.
This can develop without warning, although early warning signs include severe headaches, vision problems, and mental confusion.
Studies show that about 1 in 25 pregnant women in the United States will develop preeclampsia.
WHAT IS PREECLAMPIA?
Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure, which if left untreated can be fatal to both a woman and her unborn child.
It usually starts after the 20th week of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure is usually normal.
The most effective treatment is premature birth; usually by cesarean section.
However, this may not be the best for the baby if it is in the early stages of pregnancy.
Preeclampsia affects approximately 25,000 women in England and Wales and four percent of pregnancies in the United States each year.
It may have no symptoms if it develops gradually rather than appearing suddenly.
A blood pressure reading above 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) on two occasions is usually the first sign.
Other symptoms can include:
- Strong headache
- Blurred vision, temporary vision loss, or sensitivity to light
- Pain in the upper abdomen, especially under the ribs on the right side
- nausea or vomiting
- Reduced urination
- Shortness of breath due to fluid buildup in the lungs
Sudden weight gain and swelling of the face and hands are also symptoms, but they can occur during a normal pregnancy.
Preeclampsia is thought to start in the placenta when its blood vessels narrow and don’t respond properly to hormones.
This reduces the amount of blood flowing through them.
The underlying cause may be genetic, due to a problem with a woman’s immune system, or existing damage to blood vessels.
A woman is at greater risk if she or a member of her family has previously had preeclampsia.
The risk is also highest during the first pregnancy and when a woman is over 40 years old; overweight; Black; have a multiple birth, like twins; or conceived via IVF.
Existing conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, migraines and kidney disease also increase the risk.
If left untreated, preeclampsia can stun a baby’s growth or lead to premature birth.
The placenta can also detach from the uterine wall, which can lead to heavy bleeding.
As a result of untreated preeclampsia, a woman can also experience seizures, organ damage, and even heart disease.
Although treatment usually induces labor, if it is too soon for the baby to be born, medication may be prescribed to lower a woman’s blood pressure.
There is no clear advice on how to prevent preeclampsia, but research suggests that taking a low dose of aspirin and calcium supplements may help.
Pregnant women should consult their doctor before taking any medication or supplements.
Source: Mayo Clinic