High Blood Pressure has Association with Birth Defects

November 12, 2012

High Blood Pressure has Association with Birth Defects

A recent finding has suggested that women who have high blood pressure and are in the first trimester of pregnancy do not increase the risk of having a baby with defects if they are taking standard blood pressure medication.

The blood pressure medication is known as ACE, angiotensin converting enzyme, and is commonly used. Previous research had suggested an association between taking ACE medication and an increased incidence of babies born with defects. However this study indicates that although women with high blood pressure do have a higher risk of having a baby with a defect the risk does not increase because the mother is taking ACE medication during the first trimester.

This is good news because it gives the mother time to change medications before the second trimester because research has indicated that the risk of deformity in the baby does rise if ACE medication is taken during the second or third trimesters of pregnancy.

The suggestion that the ACE class of medications is safe to the unborn child during the early stage of pregnancy has led researcher doctor De-Kun Li to say, “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”. The study was carried out by the Kaiser Foundation Research Institute in California and was published in the journal BMJ’s online edition.

The conclusion was drawn after the researchers analyzed data collected on almost half a million (466,000) mother and children groupings throughout northern California. The data was collected between 1995 and 2008.

The research showed that women with high blood pressure who fell pregnant did not alter their risk of the baby having a birth defect whether they did not take medication, took other medications or took ACE medications. The authors did note that the risk of a baby having a defect was higher in women with high blood pressure when compared to women with normal blood pressure. This led the researchers to believe that the high blood pressure was the issue, not the medication prescribed to treat it.

Dr. Arun Jeyabalan, is an assistant professor in the division of maternal-fetal medicine in the department of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh’s Magee Women’s Hospital, and thinks that the findings are limited”.

The professor says, “The finding that there is a lack of increase in birth defects associated with high blood pressure medications is certainly reassuring. But although the study is large, which is a strength, they don’t have complete data on other medications that were used or on other conditions that are associated with, or may have caused, the hypertension”.

Jeyabalan feels that there is not enough information to come to such a sweeping conclusion because of the incompleteness of the data. Urging caution the professor says, “More research is needed, that will have more detail about the other underlying medical issues and maternal characteristics, as well as of all the medications that have been used or not used during the pregnancy”.

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