Normotensive Blood Pressure in Pregnancy
The Role of Salt and Aldosterone
A successful pregnancy requires an accommodating environment. Salt and water availability are critical for plasma volume expansion. Any changes in sodium intake would alter aldosterone, a hormone previously described beneficial in pregnancy. To date, it remains ambiguous whether high aldosterone or high salt intake is preferable. We hypothesized that increased aldosterone is a rescue mechanism and appropriate salt availability is equally effective in maintaining a normotensive blood pressure (BP) phenotype in pregnancy. We compared normotensive pregnant women (n=31) throughout pregnancy with young healthy female individuals (n=31–62) and performed salt sensitivity testing within the first trimester. Suppression of urinary tetrahydro-aldosterone levels by salt intake as measured by gas chromatography–mass spectrometry and urinary sodium excretion corrected for creatinine, respectively, was shifted toward a higher salt intake in pregnancy (P<0.0001). In pregnancy, neither high urinary tetrahydro-aldosterone nor sodium excretion was correlated with higher BP. In contrast, in nonpregnant women, systolic BP rose with aldosterone (P<0.05). Testing the impact of salt on BP, we performed salt sensitivity testing in a final cohort of 19 pregnant and 24 nonpregnant women. On salt loading, 24-hour mean arterial pressure rose by 3.6±1.5 and dropped by –2.8±1.5 mm Hg favoring pregnant women (P<0.01; χ2=6.04; P<0.02). Our data suggest first that salt responsiveness of aldosterone is alleviated in conditions of pregnancy without causing aldosterone-induced hypertension. Second, salt seems to aid in BP lowering in pregnancy for reasons incompletely elucidated, yet involving renin suppression and potentially placental sensing mechanisms. Further research should identify susceptible individuals and clarify effector mechanisms.
- Received August 30, 2013.
- Revision received September 9, 2013.
- Accepted October 30, 2013.
- © 2013 American Heart Association, Inc.