A mother's high blood pressure in pregnancy can raise her child's risk of being obese

03 October 2017
Pregnant woman

A new study has found that children born to women who experience high blood pressure during pregnancy are more likely to be obese.

The study, published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, found that children born to women with high blood pressure in the second trimester of pregnancy were 49% more likely to be overweight or obese.

According to the World Health Organisation there are an estimated 42 million children 5 and younger who are overweight or obese.

Lead researcher Dr Ju-Sheng Zheng of Qingdao University in Qingdao in China says this study highlights the importance of monitoring blood pressure in pregnant women.

“Our study is the first to demonstrate that among pregnant women, elevated blood pressure is associated with a greater risk of being overweight and obese for their children,” Dr Zheng says.

“The risk still exists 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 study examined blood pressure levels and weight in 88,406 mother-child pairs who participated in the Jiaxing Birth Cohort in south eastern China between 1999 and 2013.

The researchers analysed the women’s blood pressure results from the three trimesters of pregnancy. During follow-up visits, the children were weighed when they were between the ages of 4 and 7.

The results included:

  • Children born to women who were hypertensive during the second trimester were 49% more likely to be categorized as overweight or obese
  • Children of women with high blood pressure during the third trimester were 14% more likely to be overweight or obese.

The study found that the mother’s body size prior to pregnancy did not affect the association.

"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 as this may help to reduce the likelihood of their children being affected by obesity,” Dr Zheng says.

The study, “Maternal Blood Pressure Rise During Pregnancy and Offspring Obesity Risk at 4-7 Years Old: The Jiaxing Birth Cohort,” can be read here.