Maternal educational level and risk of gestational hypertension: the Generation R Study

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We examined whether maternal educational level as an indicator of socioeconomic status is associated with gestational hypertension. We also examined the extent to which the effect of education is mediated by maternal substance use (that is smoking, alcohol consumption and illegal drug use), pre-existing diabetes, anthropometrics (that is height and body mass index (BMI)) and blood pressure at enrolment. This was studied in 3262 Dutch pregnant women participating in the Generation R Study, a population-based cohort study. Level of maternal education was established by questionnaire at enrolment, and categorized into high, mid-high, mid-low and low. Diagnosis of gestational hypertension was retrieved from medical records using standard criteria. Odds ratios (OR) of gestational hypertension for educational levels were calculated, adjusted for potential confounders and additionally adjusted for potential mediators. Adjusted for age and gravidity, women with mid-low (OR: 1.52; 95% CI: 1.02, 2.27) and low education (OR: 1.30; 95% CI: 0.80, 2.12) had a higher risk of gestational hypertension than women with high education. Additional adjustment for substance use, pre-existing diabetes, anthropometrics and blood pressure at enrolment attenuated these ORs to 1.09 (95% CI: 0.70, 1.69) and 0.89 (95% CI: 0.50, 1.58), respectively. These attenuations were largely due to the effects of BMI and blood pressure at enrolment. Women with relatively low educational levels have a higher risk of gestational hypertension, which is largely due to higher BMI and blood pressure levels from early pregnancy. The higher risk of gestational hypertension in these women is probably caused by pre-existing hypertensive tendencies that manifested themselves during pregnancy.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)483-492
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Human Hypertension
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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