Weight at birth and subsequent risk of preeclampsia as an adult

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2003 Aug;189(2):494-500. doi: 10.1067/s0002-9378(03)00491-5.


Objective: We examined the influence of maternal birth weight on the risk of the development of preeclampsia, a likely precursor to adult chronic disease.

Study design: This hospital-based case-control study included 181 preeclampsia cases and 349 control subjects. Participants provided information about their birth weight and other covariates that included medical and reproductive history, prepregnancy weight, and adult height. Odds ratios and 95% CIs were estimated by logistic regression.

Results: The risk of preeclampsia decreased as maternal birth weight increased (P=.01). After an adjustment was made for confounders, data showed that women with a low birth weight (<2500 g) had a 2.3-fold increased risk of experiencing preeclampsia (95% CI, 1.0-5.3) as compared with women who weighed 2500 to 2999 g at birth. Conversely, women with a birth weight of >/=4000 g appeared to have a nonstatistically significant, but >50%, reduction in the risk of experiencing preeclampsia (95% CI, 0.2-1.2). This relationship differed for lean and overweight women (body mass index, <25 kg/m(2) vs >/=25 kg/m(2)). Among lean women, those who were low birth weight had a near doubling in risk of the development of preeclampsia (odds ratio, 1.9; 95% CI, 0.8-4.6), although this association did not reach statistical significance. However, among overweight women, those women who weighed <2500 g at birth had an almost 4-fold increased risk of experiencing preeclampsia (odds ratio, 3.8; 95% CI, 1.1-13.8).

Conclusion: These results confirm two earlier reports and expand the literature by showing that women who are small at birth and who become overweight as adults are at particularly high risk of the development of preeclampsia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Birth Weight*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pre-Eclampsia / epidemiology
  • Pre-Eclampsia / etiology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Thinness / complications