Pregnancy problems up stroke risk in offspring
Adults whose mothers suffered from “preeclampsia” or “gestational hypertension” while pregnant appear to be at increased risk of suffering a stroke, new research suggests.
Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy marked by high blood pressure, fluid retention and protein in urine, whereas gestational hypertension is high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy.
In a study, researchers found that people whose mothers had preeclampsia have nearly double the risk of stroke. A similar, albeit smaller, effect was seen with pregnancies complicated by gestational hypertension.
“This is the first study we are aware of that has been able to follow the offspring from pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia into their later lives,” study investigator Dr. Kent Thornburg, from the Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, said in a statement.
Prior research has shown that offspring of pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia have elevated blood pressures during childhood, but the long-term consequences, if any, were unclear, Thornburg and colleagues explain in the current issue of the medical journal Stroke.
Their findings are based on an analysis of data for 6410 subjects included in the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study who were born between 1934 and 1944. Overall, 120 pregnancies were affected by non-severe preeclampsia, 164 by severe preeclampsia, and 1592 by gestational hypertension.
The risk for stroke was 1.9 times higher among individuals whose mothers had preeclampsia and 1.4 times higher among individuals whose mothers had gestational hypertension, compared with individuals whose mothers did not have either of these problems.
Neither pregnancy complication was associated with heart disease in adulthood.
Preeclampsia, especially severe preeclampsia, was also linked to a reduced head circumference, while gestational hypertension was tied to an increased head circumference, relative to body length.
Thornburg and colleagues believe that the mechanisms responsible for the link between these pregnancy complications and stroke “may include local disorders of the blood vessels of the brain as a consequence of either reduced brain growth or impaired brain growth.”
SOURCE: Stroke, April 2009.
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