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Smoking during pregnancy may increase blood pressure in newborn babies

Monday, May 5th, 2008 | Health

Smoking during pregnancy may increase blood pressure in newborn babiesBabies born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy face the risk of developing high blood pressure during the initial months of their life, according to a study by researchers at the University Medical Center in Utrecht, Netherlands. The details of the study are due to appear in the September issue of Hypertension.

The study called the Wheezing Illnesses Study Leidsche Rijn (WHISTLER) involved 456 women who were pregnant. Researchers found that just six percent or 30 of the women smoked when pregnant. However babies born to these mothers had systolic blood pressure that was 5.4 millimeters of Hg higher than babies born to mothers who never smoked during pregnancy.

Systolic blood pressure (SBP) is the upper reading of the blood pressure figure and is the pressure exerted by the blood when the heart is in a contracted state. Diastolic blood pressure (DBP) is the lower of the blood pressure figures and represents the pressure when the heart is in a relaxed state.

“Our findings indicate maternal smoking during pregnancy has a direct substantial impact on systolic blood pressure in early infancy and is another reason for women not to smoke during pregnancy,” said lead author Caroline C. Geerts. “This association appears to occur in utero and doesn’t appear to be due to the postnatal environment of the infant.”

But the researchers did not find any association between smoking during pregnancy and the diastolic blood pressure of newborn babies. Smoke exposure also did not have any significant effect on the heart rate of newborn babies. However the researchers were not sure if their findings would have an impact on the blood pressure of the babies when they grew up.

“It is unknown if our findings will have an impact on blood pressure later in life,” Geerts said. “From a prevention point of view, it is important to determine these early life risk factors, to know at what age they exert vascular damage, and ultimately whether childhood interventions lead to actual cardiovascular risk reduction.”


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