The Association between Prenatal Psychosocial Stress and Blood Pressure in the Child at Age 5-7 Years

Van Dijk, Aimée E.; Van Eijsden, Manon; Stronks, Karien; Gemke, Reinoud J. B. J.; Vrijkotte, Tanja G. M.; Jaddoe, Vincent W. V.
August 2012
PLoS ONE;Aug2012, Vol. 7 Issue 8, Special section p1
Academic Journal
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 nonsignificant. 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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