Children born to mothers who suffer a dangerous condition during pregnancy are more likely to die after birth and in adolescence, a study has found.
Chinese researchers tracked 2.4million children born in a European country for about the first two decades of their lives.
They included about 100,000 women who suffered from a hypertensive disorder in pregnancy (HDP) — a group of conditions such as pre-eclampsia, eclampsia and high blood pressure. Two-thirds had pre-eclampsia or eclampsia.
Children born to women who had any of these condition were 26 per cent more likely to die from any cause, results showed, compared to those that were not.
The leading cause of death for the group was perinatal issues — that developed while in the womb —, but they were also at a higher risk of heart, digestive and urinary tract issues among others.
The researchers suggested this was because the pregnancy conditions created an ‘adverse’ environment in the womb damaging the baby’s development.
Celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Beyonce have both suffered from pre-eclampsia during pregnancy.
About one in 10 pregnant women suffer from pre-eclampsia — high blood pressure and higher protein levels in the urine —, the scientists said.
The above graph shows the fatality rate among infants born to mothers who suffered a hypertensive disorder in pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia (blue line) and those who did not face this condition (yellow dotted line)
Kim Kardashian (left) and Beyonce (right) have both faced pre-eclampsia during pregnancy, and opened up about their ordeals
HDP is already known to raise the risk of diabetes, immune problems and mental development issues among young children.
But little research has been carried out on how it affects children into later life.
This study — published today in the BMJ — is believed to be the first to look at the risks of death from HDP in such a large group of infants.
It was led by researchers at Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and Aarhus University, in Denmark.
For the paper, scientists combed through national records in Denmark for children born between 1978 and 2018.
Each individual was tracked until their death, emigration or the end of 2018 — whichever came earlier.
They were followed for about 19 years on average, and not longer than 41 years.
In that time there were 20,140 deaths among the youngsters.
A total of 17 deaths were recorded out of the 662 children born to mothers with eclampsia, while 781 out of the 66,900 with mothers who had pre-eclampsia died.
A further 223 deaths were recorded among the 33,510 children born to mothers with high blood pressure.
But among children born to women who had a normal pregnancy there were 19,119 deaths out of 2.3million youngsters.
Researchers then worked out a rate per 100,000 children to allow comparison between the different groups, and adjusted for risk factors including year of birth, sex, mother’s age and family income.
Analysis showed that children born to mothers with eclampsia were 188 per cent more likely to die than those born to mothers with a normal pregnancy.
Being born to a mother with pre-eclampsia raised the risk of death by 29 per cent, while to one with high blood pressure raised it by 12 per cent.
Dr Cheng Huang, a demographer at Fudan University, and others suggested in the paper 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 effect on health outcomes in offspring,’ they said.
But the researchers noted that their study was observational, and could not prove what the underlying cause was.
Kim Kardashian has revealed that she suffered from pre-eclampsia while carrying her eldest daughter North, now nine years old.
She eventually delivered North about six weeks early after having labor induced.
Beyonce also experienced the condition while pregnant with her twins Rumi and Sir, now both five years old.
She said at the time that she suffered significant swelling and was put on bed rest for a month, before the twins were born via emergency C-section.
Pre-eclampsia is when a mother has high blood pressure and / or high levels of protein in the urine that indicate kidney damage.
It normally starts at 20 weeks of pregnancy, with the only cure being to deliver the baby.
Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, headaches, upper right belly pain and a general feeling of illness or being unwell.
Most mothers who suffer it will be recommended to take bed rest to bring down their blood pressure.
In more severe cases they may also be taken into hospital for monitoring until their baby can be delivered.
It can also progress to eclampsia, which is when mother’s start experiencing seizures or go into a coma.
This can develop without warning, although early warning signs include severe headaches, visual problems and mental confusion.
About one in 25 pregnant women in the United States develop pre-eclampsia, studies show.
WHAT IS PRE-ECLAMPSIA?
Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication that causes high blood pressure, which can be deadly for both a woman and her unborn baby if untreated.
It usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy in women whose blood pressure is typically normal.
The most effective treatment is an early delivery; usually via C-section.
However, this may not be best for the baby if it is early on in the pregnancy.
Pre-eclampsia affects about 25,000 women in England and Wales each year, and four per cent of pregnancies in the US.
It can have no symptoms if it develops gradually rather than coming on suddenly.
A blood pressure reading above 140/90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) on two occasions is usually the first sign.
Other symptoms may include:
- Severe headaches
- Blurred vision, temporary loss of sight or light sensitivity
- Upper abdominal pain, particularly under the ribs on the right side
- Nausea or vomiting
- Reduced urination
- Shortness of breath due to a build up of fluid in the lungs
Sudden weight gain, and swelling in the face and hands, are also symptoms, however, these can occur during normal pregnancies.
Pre-eclampsia is thought to begin in the placenta when its blood vessels narrow and do not react to hormones properly.
This reduces the amount of blood that flows through them.
Its underlying cause may be genetic, due to a problem with a woman’s immune system or existing blood vessel damage.
A woman is more at risk if she, or a member of her family, suffered from pre-eclampsia before.
The risk is also highest during the first pregnancy, and if a woman is over 40; obese; black; having a multiple birth, like twins; or conceived via IVF.
Existing medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, migraines and kidney disease also raise the risk.
If untreated, pre-eclampsia can restrict a baby’s growth or cause it to be delivered early.
The placenta can also separate from the uterus wall, which can lead to severe bleeding.
A woman may also suffer seizures, organ damage and even heart disease as a result of untreated pre-eclampsia.
Although treatment is usually inducing labour, if it is too early to deliver the baby, medications may be prescribed to lower a woman’s blood pressure.
There is no clear advice on how to prevent pre-eclampsia, however, research suggests taking a low-dose of aspirin and calcium supplements may help.
Pregnant women should talk to their doctor before taking any drugs or supplements.
Source: Mayo Clinic