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Preeclampsia may pose long-term issues for child

Wednesday October 3, 2012
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A mother’s hypertension during pregnancy may have an effect on her child’s cognitive skills all the way into old age, according to a study.

"High blood pressure and related conditions such as preeclampsia complicate about 10% of all pregnancies and can affect a baby’s environment in the womb," study author Katri Räikönen, PhD, of the University of Helsinki in Finland, said in a news release. "Our study suggests that even declines in thinking abilities in old age could have originated during the prenatal period when the majority of the development of brain structure and function occurs."

Researchers looked at medical records for the mother’s blood pressure in pregnancy for 398 men born in Helsinki between 1934 and 1944. The men’s thinking abilities were tested at age 20 and then again at an average age of 69. Tests measured language skills, math reasoning and visual and spatial relationships.

The study found that men whose mothers had hypertension while pregnant scored 4.36 points lower on thinking ability tests at age 69 than men whose mothers did not have hypertension. The group also scored lower at age 20 and had a greater decline in their scores over the decades than those whose mothers did not have problems with blood pressure. The finding was strongest for math-related reasoning.

The researchers also looked at whether premature birth affected these findings and found no change.

The study appeared Oct. 3 on the website of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study abstract is available at http://bit.ly/O5XVPb.


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