Babies born to women with a pregnancy complication known as preeclampsia are at greater risk of having a heart defect, a new study shows.
Preeclampsia is a characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, generally the kidneys, in women who are at least 20 weeks pregnant. The condition can be life threatening to both the mother and the infant, and the only cure is delivery of the baby. This can result in premature birth, which can result in various complications for the newborn.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre in Canada, compared infants compared infants born to women with late-onset preeclampsia (34 weeks gestation and later) with infants born to women with early onset preeclampsia (fewer than 34 weeks gestation). They found that, overall, babies born to mothers with preeclampsia in general were at greater risk of being born with a noncritical heart defect, but babies born to mothers with early onset preeclampsia were also at greater risk of being born with a critical heart defect.
Critical defects among these infants included tetralogy of fallot, hypoplastic left heart, and coarctation of the aorta. Noncritical defcts included endocardial cushion, ventricular septum, atrial septum, valve and pulmonary artery.
Researchers say, overall, congenital heart defects are rare and the risk factors are generally unknown, but there are risk factors for preeclampsia that women should be aware of. Those include a personal or family history of preeclampsia, first pregnancy, age, obesity, multiple pregnancy, having babies less than two years apart or more than 10 years apart, and certain conditions including chronic high blood pressure, migraine headaches, diabetes, kidney disease, or a tendency to develop blood clots.
A study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that pregnant women who use antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were also at an increased risk of developing preeclampsia during pregnancy. SSRIs, which include the brand names Paxil, Lexapro, Zoloft, Celexa and Prozac, have also been linked to birth defects including defects of the heart, and the brain and spinal cord.