Study Finds that Pregnancy Complications Can Also Affect Child’s Health Later in Life


National Harbor, MD. ― Hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP) and gestational diabetes (GDM) are two
of the most common pregnancy complications and put pregnant people at increased risk of developing
cardiovascular disease later in life.

Now, in a new study to be presented today at the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s (SMFM) annual
meeting, The Pregnancy Meeting™, researchers will unveil findings that suggest these pregnancy complications may also result in worse cardiovascular health for the child.

In a secondary analysis of 3,317 maternal-child pairings from the prospective Hyperglycemia and Adverse
Pregnancy Outcome Follow-up Study (HAPO FUS), researchers examined whether there was a connection
between hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and gestational diabetes and a child’s cardiovascular health.

On the maternal side, 8 percent developed high blood pressure during pregnancy, 12 percent developed
gestational diabetes, and 3 percent developed both high blood pressure and diabetes.

Researchers then examined the child’s cardiovascular health 10 to 14 years after delivery. Cardiovascular
health was evaluated based on four metrics: body mass index, blood pressure, total cholesterol, and glucose
level. Pediatric guidelines categorized each metric as ideal, intermediate, or poor. Researchers found that
before the age of 12 (median age: 11.6), more than half of the children (55.5%) had at least one metric that
was non-ideal, which puts them at greater risk of heart disease and stroke.

“These findings are important because traditionally, the thinking has been that a person’s risk of developing
cardiovascular disease starts after birth — that everyone starts at the same point,” says the study’s lead author Kartik K. Venkatesh, MD, PhD, a maternal-fetal medicine subspecialist and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and assistant professor of epidemiology, and Director of the Diabetes in Pregnancy Program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. “These data suggest that’s not the case and that what happens in the womb can affect the child across their lifespan.”

The abstract was published in the January 2024 supplement of the American Journal of Obstetrics and