Hypertensive disorders in pregnancy are of particular concern since they can endanger the lives of both the mother and her unborn child.
As part of the study, the researcher used data of 49,615 girls in Denmark, born from 1930-1996. Annual height and weight measurements were collected from ages 7-13 years.
The researchers defined overweight and obesity at ages 7 and 13 years according to the International Obesity Task Force body mass index cut-offs (BMI ?17.69 kg/m2 at age 7 years and 22.49 kg/m2 at age 13 years). Using national registers, they identified girls who later became pregnant and those who developed gestational hypertension or preeclampsia from 1978-2017. Women were included in the study if they were in the age range of 18-45 years and gave birth to a single baby in their first recorded birth.
The findings were published in the meeting of the European Congress on Obesity.
After estimating the odds ratios (OR) for the association between childhood BMI and hypertensive disorders during pregnancy, using a statistical technique called multivariate logistic regression, the team found that compared to girls with normal-weight, those with overweight at ages 7 or 13 years were significantly more likely to develop gestational hypertension (increased risk 1.9 and 2.0 times, respectively) and preeclampsia (increased risk 1.6 and 2.3 times, respectively).
When looking at patterns of change in BMI, girls with overweight at 13 years only or at both 7 and 13 years were around twice as likely to develop gestational hypertension and preeclampsia during pregnancy, than girls with normal-weight at both ages.
According to the research team, a high childhood BMI at ages 7 and 13 years in girls was significantly associated with the later risk of developing gestational hypertension and preeclampsia during pregnancy.
These results suggest that preventive efforts aimed at helping girls attain a normal weight during these years may benefit both, their own health and the health of children they may have in the future.