In the present investigation, we evaluated the effect(s) of long-term hypertension and pregnancy-induced , hypertension in women on the activity of the adrenals of their fetuses. We measured dehydroisoandrosterone sulfate, cortisol, and lipoprotein-cholesterol in umbilical cord plasma of newborn infants delivered (30 to 41 weeks' gestation) of 129 women whose pregnancies were uncomplicated and of 98 women with pregnancy-induced or long-term hypertension. Umbilical cord plasma levels of cortisol were similar in both groups of newborn infants at each gestational period. Fetal plasma levels of dehydroisoandrosterone sulfate also were similar in both groups at 30 to 33 weeks of gestation but were significantly reduced in newborn infants of hypertensive women who were delivered between 34 and 41 weeks of gestation compared with those of newborn infants of normal women who were delivered at a similar gestational age. At term, umbilical cord plasma levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol were significantly higher in the newborn infants of hypertensive women compared with those levels in newborn infants of normotensive women; fetal plasma levels of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol and very low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol were similar in both groups of newborn infants. The lowest plasma levels of dehydroisoandrosterone sulfate and the highest plasma levels of total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol were found in newborn infants of women with the most severe pregnancy-induced hypertension. Based on these findings, we conclude that maternal hypertension (1) effects a decrease in the rate of steroidogenesis of the fetal zone of the fetal adrenal cortex but does not act in a similar manner to effect steroidogenesis of the neocortical zone and (2) leads to hypercholesterolemia in the fetus as a consequence of reduced adrenal utilization of low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol. In addition, the effects of pregnancy-induced hypertension appear to be manifest in the fetus late in pregnancy at a time when the fetal adrenal normally undergoes an accelerated rate of growth and steroid biosynthesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Obstetrics and Gynecology