Preeclampsia, gestational hypertension and intrauterine growth restriction, related or independent conditions?

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2006 Apr;194(4):921-31. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2005.10.813.


Objective: Preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, and unexplained intrauterine growth restriction may have similar determinants and consequences. In this study, we compared determinants and perinatal outcomes associated with these obstetric conditions.

Study design: We analyzed 39,615 pregnancies (data from the WHO Antenatal Care Trial), of which 2.2% were complicated by preeclampsia, 7.0% by gestational hypertension, and 8.1% by unexplained intrauterine growth restriction (ie, not associated with maternal smoking, maternal undernutrition, preeclampsia, gestational hypertension, or congenital malformations). We compared the risk factors associated with these groups. Fetal death, preterm delivery, and severe neonatal morbidity and mortality were the primary outcomes. Logistic regression analyses were adjusted for study site, socioeconomic status, and (if appropriate) birth weight and gestational age.

Results: Diabetes, renal or cardiac disease, previous preeclampsia, urinary tract infection, high maternal age, twin pregnancy, and obesity increased the risk of both hypertensive conditions. Previous large-for-age birth, reproductive tract surgery, antepartum hemorrhage and reproductive tract infection increased the risk for gestational hypertension only. Independent of maternal age, primiparity was a risk factor only for preeclampsia. Both preeclampsia and gestational hypertension were associated with increased risk for fetal death and severe neonatal morbidity and mortality. Mothers with preeclampsia compared with those with unexplained intrauterine growth restriction were more likely to have a history of diabetes, renal or cardiac disease, chronic hypertension, previous preeclampsia, body mass index more than 30 kg/cm2, urinary tract infection and extremes of maternal age. Conversely, unexplained intrauterine growth restriction was associated with higher risk of low birth weight in previous pregnancies, but not with previous preeclampsia. Both conditions increased the risk for perinatal outcomes independently but preeclampsia was associated with considerable higher risk.

Conclusion: Preeclampsia and gestational hypertension shared many risk factors, although there are differences that need further evaluation. Both conditions significantly increased morbidity and mortality. Conversely, preeclampsia and unexplained intrauterine growth restriction, often assumed to be related to placental insufficiency, seem to be independent biologic entities.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fetal Growth Retardation* / epidemiology
  • Fetal Growth Retardation* / etiology
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pregnancy-Induced* / epidemiology
  • Hypertension, Pregnancy-Induced* / etiology
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pre-Eclampsia* / epidemiology
  • Pre-Eclampsia* / etiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Risk Factors