Pregnant women with pre-eclampsia are more likely to have children with mental health conditions, a study suggests. Photo courtesy of Max Pixel
April 20 (UPI) -- Pre-eclampsia and other high blood pressure disorders experienced during pregnancy may increase a child's risk for mental health disorders later in childhood, a study published Monday in the journal Hypertension suggests.
Children born to mothers with severe pre-eclampsia were twice as likely to have mental health problems, according to the study, which included nearly 5,000 mother-child pairs in Finland.
The children of mothers with pre-eclampsia also had a 66 percent higher risk for mental issues, according to the researchers.
"The findings emphasize the need for preventive interventions and treatments for maternal hypertensive disorders, since such interventions have the potential to benefit both the well-being of the expectant mother and her offspring," co-author Marius Lahti-Pulkkinen, a docent at the University of Helsinki in Finland, said in a press release.
Pre-eclampsia is a common pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine, which can indicate damage to other organs including the liver and kidneys. The condition is diagnosed in roughly 4 percent of pregnancies in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In general, hypertensive pregnancy disorders like pre-eclampsia are key risk factors for maternal mortality, stillbirth, preterm birth and intrauterine growth restriction and they predict cardiovascular morbidity in the mother and her offspring.
As part of the Prediction and Prevention of Preeclampsia and Intrauterine Growth Restriction, or PREDO, study -- an analysis of mother-child pairs with children born in southern and eastern Finland between 2006 and 2010 -- the Finland study reviewed data from 4,743 mother-child pairs focusing on hypertensive pregnancy disorders, including chronic high blood pressure, or hypertension, as well as gestational hypertension, pre-eclampsia and eclampsia. Eclampsia is a severe complication of pre-eclampsia that causes seizures.
The women in the study were recruited at maternity hospitals, and the children were followed from birth to up to 10 years old, with data collected prospectively from medical records and national health registers.
In addition to increased risk for mental health problems, the researchers noted that the combination of maternal hypertensive disorders, overweight or obesity and diabetes in pregnancy increase the cumulative incidence of childhood mental disorders from 6.6 percent among offspring of mothers with none of those conditions to 22.2 percent in offspring exposed to all of them.
The researchers said the associations of maternal pre-eclampsia with offspring childhood mental disorders are not explained by maternal mental disorders, age, substance use, number of previous pregnancies, education, overweight or obesity, diabetes disorders or paternal mental or hypertensive disorders.
"While previous studies have shown significant effects of pre-eclampsia on ADHD, autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia in the offspring, a novel aspect of our findings was that the predisposing effects of maternal pre-eclampsia extended to any childhood mental disorder in the offspring," Lahti-Pulkkinen said.