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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Mental Health - Pediatrics and Child Health - Public Health and Epidemiology

The Association between Prenatal Psychosocial Stress and Blood Pressure in the Child at Age 5–7 Years
Published: Tuesday, August 21, 2012
Author: Aimée E. van Dijk et al.

by Aimée E. van Dijk, Manon van Eijsden, Karien Stronks, Reinoud J. B. J. Gemke, Tanja G. M. Vrijkotte

Objective

Prenatal maternal stress could have permanent effects on the offspring’s tissue structure and function, which may predispose to cardiovascular diseases. We investigated whether maternal psychosocial stress is a prenatal factor affecting the blood pressure (BP) of offspring.

Study Design

In the Amsterdam Born Children and their Development (ABCD) study, around gestational week 16, depressive symptoms, state-anxiety, pregnancy-related anxiety, parenting daily hassles and job strain were recorded by questionnaire. A cumulative stress score was also calculated (based on 80th percentiles). Systolic and diastolic BP and mean arterial pressure (MAP) were measured in the offspring at age 5–7 years. Inclusion criteria were: no use of antihypertensive medication during pregnancy; singleton birth; no reported cardiovascular problems in the child (N?=?2968 included).

Results

After adjustment for confounders, the single stress scales were not associated with systolic and diastolic BP, MAP and hypertension (p>0.05). The presence of 3–4 psychosocial stressors prenatally (4%) was associated with 1.5 mmHg higher systolic and diastolic BP (p?=?0.046; p?=?0.04) and 1.5 mmHg higher MAP in the offspring (p?=?0.02) compared to no stressors (46%). The presence of 3–4 stressors did not significantly increase the risk for hypertension (OR 1.8; 95% CI 0.93.4). Associations did not differ between sexes. Bonferroni correction for multiple testing rendered all associations non-significant.

Conclusions

The presence of multiple psychosocial stressors during pregnancy was associated with higher systolic and diastolic BP and MAP in the child at age 5–7. Further investigation of maternal prenatal stress may be valuable for later life cardiovascular health.

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