A recently published study, conducted by the National Institute of Health’s National Human Genome Research Institute indicates high and low cholesterol levels in pregnant women tend to lead to premature births.
According to the National Institute of Health, previous studies have indicated that high cholesterol in pregnant women tends to lead to premature births of their babies. The current study aimed to determine what, if any, effect low cholesterol in pregnant women would have on infants’ time of birth, birth defects, birth weight, and head circumference.
Premature birth is linked to an increased risk of respiratory disease, blindness, deafness, cognitive impairment, infant death, and cerebral palsy.
Max Muenke, M.D., Robin J. Edison, M.D., M.P.H., Kate Berg, Ph.D., from the National Human Genome Research Institute as well as their colleagues followed 1,058 pregnant women between the ages of 21 and 34 who were referred to clinics in South Carolina for routine prenatal care between the years 1996-2001. The researchers measured cholesterol levels during each woman’s second trimester.
Low cholesterol was defined as cholesterol levels below 159 milligrams per deciliter. Moderate cholesterol levels were defined as being between 159-261 milligrams per deciliter. And high cholesterol levels were defined as those exceeding 261 milligrams per deciliter.
The researchers discovered that women with high cholesterol levels were more likely to have premature babies, babies who were born before 37 weeks of gestation. Twelve percent of African-American and white women with high cholesterol gave birth prematurely.
Women with moderate cholesterol levels were 5% likely to give birth to premature babies. Interestingly, white women with low cholesterol levels had a 21% premature birth rate incidence. There were no differences between the rate of premature births in African-American women with low cholesterol and those with moderate cholesterol levels. However, both African-American and white women with low cholesterol gave birth to babies who were, on average, 5 ounces lighter than those who had moderate cholesterol.
There were no significant differences regarding birth defects among the women with high, moderate, and low cholesterol levels during pregnancy.
Dr. Max Muenke asserted, “Based on our initial findings, it appears that too little cholesterol may be as bad as too much cholesterol during pregnancy, but it is too early to extrapolate these results to the general population. More research is needed to replicate this outcome and to extend it to other groups. For now, the best advice for pregnant women is to follow the guidance of their healthcare providers when it comes to diet and exercise.”
For information on prenatal care, visit Medline Plus, located at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/prenatalcare.html.
The National Institute of Health published all the details on the findings of the current study, and they may be viewed by visiting: http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/oct2007/nhgri-01.htm. This study is also published in the October 1, 2007 issue of Pediatrics.
National Institute of Health: Low Maternal Cholesterol Tied to Premature Birth: