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Pre-eclampsia and risk of epilepsy

Women who develop pre-eclampsia during pregnancy increase the risk of epilepsy in their children

Pre-eclampsia and risk of epilepsy

Women who develop pre-eclampsia during pregnancy increase the risk of epilepsy in their children who are born after 37 weeks of gestation. Pre-eclampsia, a condition that develops after the 20th week of pregnancy, is characterised by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. The best treatment is to deliver the baby. If this is not feasible, bed rest, close monitoring, and delivery as soon as survival outside of the womb is likely is recommended, preferably after the 37th week of pregnancy. Women are usually hospitalised and carefully monitored. Eclampsia occurs when pre-eclampsia worsens and is characterised by seizures, agitation and unconsciousness. Eclampsia is considered a medical emergency and jeopardises the life of both the mother and the child. Previous research has identified eclampsia as a strong risk factor for epilepsy in offsprings, but whether the same holds true with pre-eclampsia is unclear. To study the link between pre-eclampsia and eclampsia in mothers and the risk of epilepsy in their children, researchers from Germany studied 15, 37, 860 infants. Of these, 45, 288 children were born to mothers diagnosed with pre-eclampsia while 654 had mothers suffering from eclampsia. In the pre-eclampsia group, 34, 823 children were exposed to mild pre-eclampsia, 7, 043 to severe pre-eclampsia, and in 3, 422 cases, the severity of pre-eclampsia in the mother was unspecified. It was found that 20, 620 of the subjects developed epilepsy during a follow-up of up to 27 years. With mild pre-eclampsia, the epilepsy rate was increased by 16 and 68 percent for full-term and post-term infants, respectively. For severe pre-eclampsia, the corresponding risks increased by 41 percent and 257 percent, respectively. However, no link between epilepsy and pre-eclampsia was found in preterm infants. Post-term children born to mothers suffering from eclampsia had an even higher risk (5 times) of developing epilepsy. The researchers concluded that exposure of babies to pre-eclampsia or its related pathologies increase their susceptibility to epilepsy later in life and postulated that pre-eclampsia/eclampsia and epilepsy may share common causative factors.
Pediatrics
November 2008
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