Increased Risk of Gestational Hypertension by Periconceptional Exposure to Ambient Air Pollution and Effect Modification by Prenatal Depression

Hypertension. 2024 Jun;81(6):1285-1295. doi: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.123.22272. Epub 2024 Mar 27.


Background: Air pollution has been associated with gestational hypertension (GH) and preeclampsia, but susceptible windows of exposure and potential vulnerability by comorbidities, such as prenatal depression, remain unclear.

Methods: We ascertained GH and preeclampsia cases in a prospective pregnancy cohort in Los Angeles, CA. Daily levels of ambient particulate matters (with a diameter of ≤10 μm [PM10] or ≤2.5 μm [PM2.5]), nitrogen dioxide, and ozone were averaged for each week from 12 weeks preconception to 20 gestational weeks. We used distributed lag models to identify susceptible exposure windows, adjusting for potential confounders. Analyses were additionally stratified by probable prenatal depression to explore population vulnerability.

Results: Among 619 participants, 60 developed preeclampsia and 42 developed GH. We identified a susceptible window for exposure to PM2.5 from 1 week preconception to 11 weeks postconception: higher exposure (5 µg/m3) within this window was associated with an average of 8% (95% CI, 1%-15%) higher risk of GH. Among participants with probable prenatal depression (n=179; 32%), overlapping sensitive windows were observed for all pollutants from 8 weeks before to 10 weeks postconception with increased risk of GH (PM2.5, 16% [95% CI, 3%-31%]; PM10, 39% [95% CI, 13%-72%]; nitrogen dioxide, 65% [95% CI, 17%-134%]; and ozone, 45% [95% CI, 9%-93%]), while the associations were close to null among those without prenatal depression. Air pollutants were not associated with preeclampsia in any analyses.

Conclusions: We identified periconception through early pregnancy as a susceptible window of air pollution exposure with an increased risk of GH. Prenatal depression increases vulnerability to air pollution exposure and GH.

Keywords: air pollution; depression; nitrogen dioxide; ozone; particulate matter; preeclampsia; pregnancy complications.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Air Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Air Pollution* / adverse effects
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pregnancy-Induced* / epidemiology
  • Los Angeles / epidemiology
  • Maternal Exposure / adverse effects
  • Nitrogen Dioxide / adverse effects
  • Ozone / adverse effects
  • Particulate Matter* / adverse effects
  • Pre-Eclampsia / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Young Adult