Vitamin D May Lower Blood Pressure Risk For Newborns Of Mothers With Preeclampsia: Study

Among pregnant women with preeclampsia, use of vitamin D may not only help their children avoid high blood pressure later in life, but could also reduce the risk of other health problems, according to the findings of a new study.

In a report published this week in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conducted an analysis of 754 mother-child pairs at the Boston Medical Center in Massachusetts. They reviewed data on preeclampsia during pregnancy, collected blood from the umbilical cord at birth and measured the child’s blood pressure from age 3 to 18.

About 10% of the women in the study had preeclampsia, and their children had higher systolic blood pressure than children born to women who did not have preeclampsia during pregnancy.

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Preeclampsia is a condition that develops during pregnancy causing high blood pressure in the mother, which can be fatal if not treated quickly, as it can result in early labor and a loss of blood.

The data from the new study indicated children who had cord blood with higher levels of vitamin D had a lower risk of having high blood pressure later.

Children who had the lowest levels of vitamin D had blood pressure 11 percentile points higher if their mothers had preeclampsia, compared to children of mothers who did not have preeclampsia. However, children with the highest levels of vitamin D in their blood cord did not have high blood pressure, even if their mothers had preeclampsia.

“There is increasing evidence that cardiovascular disease risk is, to a great extent, programmed in the womb, and we now see that it may be vitamin D that alters this programming in a beneficial fashion,” senior study author Noel Mueller, assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Bloomberg School, said in a Johns Hopkins press release.

Preeclampsia can lead to strokes and organ failure and is a major cause of illness and death for pregnant women. The condition occurs among about 2% to 8% of all pregnancies globally, and is associated with higher rates of stillbirths and preterm births.

The rate of severe preeclampsia in the U.S. has risen sharply since the 1980s, although the condition is considered largely preventable if hospitals implement certain basic safety practices during childbirth. However, recent studies have suggested that most hospitals in the U.S. are not implementing the safety practices that could prevent maternal deaths during childbirth from preeclampsia.

Children who have high blood pressure often suffer from hypertension and heart disease in adulthood. The rate of high blood pressure among children in the United States has increased by 40% from 1988 to 2008. Studies indicate maternal preeclampsia may be a frisk factor in that increase.

Other studies have linked maternal vitamin D deficiency to increased risk of preeclampsia. Simply supplementing with vitamin D during pregnancy may help to reduce a child’s risk of high blood pressure later in life, regardless if their mother suffered from preeclampsia during pregnancy.

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