Exposures that contribute to a sub-optimal intrauterine environment can have an effect on the developing fetus. Impaired fetal growth that results in low birth weight is an established risk factor for cardio-metabolic disorders later in life. Recent epidemiologic and prospective cohort studies that include the maternal and gestational period have identified maternal and gestational conditions that confer increased risk for subsequent cardio-metabolic disorders in the absence of low birth weight. Maternal pre-conception health status, including chronic obesity and type 2 diabetes, increase risk for childhood obesity and obesity-related higher blood pressure (BP) in child offspring. Maternal gestational exposures, including gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, and preeclampsia, are associated with higher BP in offspring. Other maternal exposures such as cigarette smoke and air pollution also increase risk for higher BP in child offspring. Recent, but limited, data indicate that assisted reproductive technologies can be associated with hypertension in childhood, despite otherwise normal gestation and healthy newborn. Gestational exposures associated with higher BP in childhood can be related to familial lifestyle factors, genetics, or epigenetic modification of fetal deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). These factors, or combination of factors, as well as other adverse intrauterine conditions, could induce fetal programing leading to health consequences in later life. Current and developing research will provide additional insights on gestational exposures and fetal adjustments that increase risk for higher BP levels in childhood.
Recommended CitationFalkner, Bonita, "Maternal and gestational influences on childhood blood pressure." (2019). Department of Medicine Faculty Papers. Paper 252.
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