Reduced cardiac vagal control, indexed by relatively lower high-frequency heart rate variability (HF-HRV), is implicated in depressed mood and hypertensive disorders among non-pregnant adults whereas research in pregnancy is limited. This study examined whether maternal HF-HRV during pregnancy mediates the association between depressed mood and gestational hypertension. Depressive symptoms (Edinburgh Depression Scale) and HF-HRV were measured during early (M=14.9 weeks) and late (M=32.4 weeks) pregnancy in 287 women. Gestational hypertension was determined by chart review. Depressive symptoms were associated with less HF-HRV (b=-0.02, p=.001). There was an indirect effect of depressed mood on gestational hypertension through late pregnancy HF-HRV (b=0.04, 95% CI 0.0038, 0.1028) after accounting for heart rate. These findings suggest cardiac vagal control is a possible pathway through which prenatal depressed mood is associated with gestational hypertension, though causal ordering remains uncertain.
Keywords: Cardiac vagal control; Depressive symptoms; Gestational hypertension; Heart rate; High-frequency heart rate variability; Pregnancy.
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