Background: Foetal growth retardation (FGR), defined as less than the 10th percentile of birth weight for gestational age, is reported to be an important contributor to hypertension and cardiovascular disease in children and adults, but findings are not consistent. For this reason we re-examined the role of FGR in childhood blood pressure.
Methods: We performed univariate and multivariate analyses on data gathered from 262 children, age 5 years, born to mothers at risk for pre-term delivery or FGR infant. The characteristics of the mothers and the children were evaluated using Student's t-test. Rates and proportions were compared using either chi-square or Fisher's exact test. Linear regression models evaluated the effect of birth weight and body mass index on systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Multivariate linear regression was used to model the effects of FGR, gestational age, body mass index, race, gender, maternal smoking, maternal gestational diabetes on blood pressure while adjusting for possible confounders.
Results: Systolic blood pressure was inversely associated with birth weight in white children while a small direct association was noted in African Americans. Body mass index was positively associated with systolic blood pressure in both groups. Multiple linear regression analyses showed FGR and early gestational age were associated with higher blood pressure in white but not African American children, accounting for a 13.2 mmHg difference between FGR and appropriate for gestational age groups. Blood pressure in African Americans was strongly affected by maternal gestational diabetes and smoking.
Conclusions: Birth weight influences childhood blood pressure but the effects may vary depending on ethnic group. The relative importance of birth weight on blood pressure may depend on other prenatal and post-partum risks.