Children born to mothers who suffered preeclampsia during pregnancy may face a higher risk of neurodevelopment disorders, according to the findings of a new study.
In findings published this month in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry, researchers from the U.S. and Norway found a higher likelihood of autism, ADHD, and other neurodevelopment disorders among the children of women who were diagnosed with preeclampsia during their pregnancy.
Preeclampsia affects roughly four percent of pregnancies in the United States, and is the leading cause of pregnancy-related complications and pregnancy-related deaths in the world.
Researchers conducted a population-based study involving nearly 1 million participants from Norway, using data from the Norwegian Medical Birth Registry. The study included children born from January 1991 to December 2009, followed the participants for 14 years, and used health data from Statistics Norway to determine neurodevelopment.
About three percent, or 28,000, of the children were exposed to preeclampsia during their mother’s pregnancy. Those children were at increased risk of cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), epilepsy and intellectual disability.
According to the findings, the children faced an 18% increased risk of ADHD, a nearly 30% increased risk of autism and cerebral palsy, and a 50% increased risk of epilepsy and intellectual disability.
Preeclampsia can cause a life-threatening increase in blood pressure. It can cause problems with the placenta, as well as increased inflammation, hypertension, and organ dysfunction. It can also lead to seizures and strokes, and in some cases can result in the mother’s death.
Women who suffer preeclampsia face an increased risk of developing kidney disease later in life. They are four times as likely to develop chronic kidney disease than women who never suffered preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia is highly preventable but is often left untreated or undiagnosed. A recent study indicated hospitals in the U.S. are not doing enough to implement basic safety practices that would prevent maternal deaths from conditions like preeclampsia, finding that half of all cases are preventable.
Doctors can prevent preeclampsia simply by conducting regular blood pressure monitoring, monitoring blood loss during labor, and conducting thorough risk assessments at check-in.
Researchers of the latest study suspect something about the pathology of preeclampsia may contribute to the development of a broad range of neurologic problems in children.
“Preeclampsia is a well-established threat to the mother,” the researchers concluded. “Other than the hazards associated with preterm delivery, the risks to offspring from preeclampsia are usually regarded as less important. This study’s findings suggest that preeclampsia at term may have lasting effects on neurodevelopment of the child.”