Having high blood pressure during pregnancy (also called preeclampsia) was found to increase the offspring’s risk of having high blood pressure in childhood and young adulthood. This study published in Pediatrics analyzed 18 studies and looked at cardiovascular risk factors in people exposed to high blood pressure during pregnancy. Those that were exposed had a systolic blood pressure that was 2.39 mm Hg higher compared to those whose mothers had healthy pregnancies. The diastolic pressure was 1.35 mm Hg higher. They calculated that over time, these figures would increase one’s risk for dying from heart disease by 8% and from stroke by 12%.
What’s my take on this study? It’s not surprising, since many women with preeclampsia have sleep-breathing problems such as obstructive sleep apnea and upper airway resistance syndrome. It’s been shown that treating with CPAP can lower blood pressure in women with preeclampsia. Despite this knowledge , sleep apnea is almost never considered when treating preeclamptic women in the US. Having hypoxia and physiologic stress from the mother’s poor sleep quality can be detrimental to the developing fetus. Since the offspring will also inherit the mother’s upper airway anatomy, it’s not surprising that the child will be predisposed to the consequences of obstructive sleep apnea, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack and stroke. It’s also likely that environmental and dietary factors during pregnancy may carry over into the household which can also affect the child’s diet.