High blood pressure in early pregnancy raises risk of birth defects, irrespective of medication

Women with high blood pressure (hypertension) in the early stages of pregnancy are more likely to have babies with birth defects, irrespective of commonly prescribed medicines for their condition, finds new research published in the British Medical Journal today.

The finding suggests that it is the underlying hypertension, rather than the use of in , that increases the risk of birth defects.

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are a type of antihypertensive medication commonly prescribed to tackle hypertension. It is already known that they have a on fetuses in the second or third trimesters, but their effects on a fetus during the mother's first trimester is still unclear.

So researchers led by Dr De-Kun Li of the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute in California, set out to see if there was an association between using ACE inhibitors during a woman's first trimester and birth defects.

They studied data on 465,754 mother-infant pairs from the Kaiser Permanente Northern Californian region between 1995 and 2008. Data was also available on which medications had been prescribed and dispensed to these women.

Analysis showed that women who used ACE inhibitors in their first trimester were more likely to have a baby with some form of birth defect compared with women who did not have hypertension or who had not used any form of antihypertensive medication.

However, a similar elevated risk was found among women who used other antihypertensive drugs and those with hypertension who did not take any antihypertensive medication.

The researchers conclude: "Our finding suggests that it is likely the underlying hypertension rather than use of antihypertensive drugs in the first trimester that increases the risk of birth defects in offspring."

In an accompanying editorial, Professor Allen Mitchell from Boston University says that - based on the available studies - it would appear reasonable to conclude that exposure to poses no greater risk of birth defects than other antihiypertensives, and that it is the underlying hypertension that places the fetus at risk.

He believes that, while clinicians must certainly identify and control hypertension, particularly in pregnancy, "we have much to learn about how hypertension can cause birth defects."

Related Stories

Widespread use of medications among pregnant women reported

date Apr 25, 2011

Researchers from Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Center, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Harvard School of Public Health, have reported widespread and increasing medication ...

No link between antidepressants and birth defects

date May 22, 2008

Expectant mothers can safely use prescribed antidepressants during their first trimester, according to a new study from the Université de Montréal and Ste. Justine Hospital published in the May edition of the British Jo ...

Recommended for you

Self-hypnosis training doesn't cut epidural use

date May 26, 2015

(HealthDay)—Self-hypnosis training does not reduce women's epidural use during childbirth, according to a study published online May 11 in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

ACOG urges expedited partner therapy for some STIs

date May 25, 2015

(HealthDay)—For patients with sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, whose partners are unable or unwilling to seek care, expedited partner therapy can be used to prevent ...

German woman, 65, gives birth to quadruplets

date May 23, 2015

A 65-year-old teacher from Berlin has given birth to quadruplets after a pregnancy that was widely criticized by medical professionals because of her age, RTL television said Saturday.

More evidence C-sections riskier for moms

date May 20, 2015

(HealthDay)—Women who deliver their first baby by cesarean section are more likely to need blood transfusions and be admitted to intensive care units than women who opt for a vaginal delivery, U.S. health ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.