BACKGROUND: Maternal overweight (including obesity) is an established risk factor for gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia. However, it is largely unknown whether body size before adulthood relates to these diseases.
OBJECTIVES: We examined whether childhood BMI (in kg/m2) and changes in BMI from childhood to adulthood were associated with gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia.
METHODS: Using the Copenhagen School Health Records Register, we studied 49,600 women born between 1940 and 1996 with height and weight measurements at 7 y and/or 13 y who had their first singleton birth between ages 18 and 45 y. Women with gestational hypertension (n = 496) and pre-eclampsia (n = 1804) were identified from the International Classification of Disease codes in the Danish National Patient Register. Adult overweight (including obesity) was defined as a BMI ≥25. We used log-linear binomial regression to estimate risk ratios (RRs) and 95% CIs.
RESULTS: At 13 y, as BMI increased above average (z score >0, or the 42nd percentile of the CDC BMI reference), RR for gestational hypertension was 1.66 (95% CI: 1.42, 1.94) and that for pre-eclampsia was 1.57 (95% CI: 1.46, 1.70) per BMI z score. In a subset of 13,160 women, development of overweight from childhood to adulthood and having overweight at both ages were associated with higher risks of the outcomes than in those with a normal BMI at both ages. No increased risks were observed in women whose BMI normalized from childhood to adulthood: RR was 2.04 (95% CI: 0.93, 4.47) for gestational hypertension and 1.11 (95% CI: 0.63, 1.93) for pre-eclampsia.
CONCLUSIONS: Above-average childhood BMI values and development of overweight from childhood to adulthood were associated with increased risks of gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia, whereas normalizing BMI from childhood to conception attenuated the risks. Thus, interventions aiming at normalizing BMI in girls with high values may be warranted to help prevent these obstetric diseases.