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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU: Chronic Hypertension during Pregnancy May Lead to Congenital Birth Defects

Women who develop hypertension and preeclampsia early in pregnancy may give birth to babies who have increased chances of congenital heart defects and genitourinary abnormalities, a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) study found.

Researchers used data from the Slone Birth Defects Study, a multi-site case-control study at BU’s Slone Epidemiology Center that has been ongoing since 1976. For this study, which examined births during the years 1998–2010, the research team looked at 5,568 cases with birth defects and a control group of 7,253 infants without malformations.

The study confirmed some, but not all, previously reported associations between birth defects and hypertensive disorders that were treated with drugs or managed by other means.

Chronic hypertension that was managed without prescription drugs was associated with a three-fold risk of esophageal atresia, a rare birth defect in which a baby is born without the esophagus connecting to the stomach. Babies born to women who developed preeclampsia as well as chronic hypertension treated without drugs had a higher incidence of ventricular and atrial septal defects.

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