New Study Links Maternal High Blood Pressure to High Levels of Air Pollution

It turns out that for pregnant women, one of the best ways to avoid pre-eclampsia — or maternal hypertension — may be living in an area with low levels of air pollution.

chimney-2-1087644-m.jpgA new study out of the University of Florida at Gainesville found that pregnant women who live in neighborhoods with high levels of air pollution may be slightly more likely to develop high blood pressure than pregnant women who do not live in such conditions. Researchers studied information about 22,000 women who gave birth in Jacksonville, Florida in the years 2004 and 2005. The birth records revealed that slightly over 1,000 women, or nearly five percent, developed high blood pressure over the course of their pregnancies.

The researchers then looked at each woman’s address and linked it to the nearest Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air quality monitor. The EPA air quality monitors are intended to record the amount of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, fine particle pollution, and various other pollutants in the air every day. Those women who lived near air quality monitors that posted high levels of pollution throughout their pregnancies had 12% to 24% greater likelihood of developing maternal hypertension than women exposed to less pollution. The pattern held up whether researchers looked at women in their first trimester or their third trimester.

While the study’s conclusions were eye opening, some experts in the field were skeptical. One from the Boston University School of Medicine noted that certain key factors, like the women’s weights, was not taken into account, or whether any of the women moved to different neighborhoods during their pregnancies. Overall, these experts believe that more research needs to be done before recommendations can be made to women seeking to get pregnant.

This study, as well as another one that examined the link between obesity and maternal high blood pressure, is an attempt to figure out a condition that remains largely a mystery. Pre-eclampsia can strike a pregnant woman at any time, even women with no prior history of high blood pressure. Once pre-eclampsia has been diagnosed, a pregnant woman must be monitored carefully, both her blood pressure levels and the amount of protein in her urine. While the condition does not mean that the woman cannot deliver a healthy baby, it increases the possibility that medical staff may need to induce early labor. At worst, pre-eclampsia can be fatal for both the mother and the baby.

While it is helpful to know more about potential causes of pre-eclampsia, it certainly cannot be reassuring to a pregnant woman that where she lives could determine the health of her child. Even so, regardless of the risk factors, hospital physicians have a duty to take every reasonable step to ensure that the woman and her child come through the pregnancy safely. Those who suffer from preventable medical mistakes have the option of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. Under Maryland law, an adult filing on her own behalf has the option of filing either five years from the injury, or three years from discovering the injury, whichever is earlier. Any affected minor may have until the age of 21 to file a lawsuit. If you live in Maryland and suffered an injury due to preventable medical error, contact a Baltimore maternal hypertension attorney to discuss your options.

Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt has more than 100 years of collective experience dealing with medical malpractice and birth injury cases. Located in Baltimore, Maryland, the firm represents residents in Maryland and Washington, D.C. If you have a birth injury or other medical malpractice issue, contact us today for a free consultation.

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