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Pregnancy and 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

Pregnancy and 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. 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. 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. Therefore, researchers from Finland studied 6410 subjects who were born between 1934 and 1944 to identify whether pre-eclampsia and gestational hypertension would lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease in the offspring. Mother's blood pressure levels and presence of proteinuria during pregnancy were used to define pre-eclampsia and gestational hypertension without proteinuria. Overall, 120 pregnancies were affected by non-severe preeclampsia, 164 by severe preeclampsia, and 1592 by gestational hypertension. It was 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. The risk for stroke was 2 times higher among individuals whose mothers had preeclampsia and one and a half 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. The researchers concluded that the mechanisms responsible for the link between these pregnancy complications and stroke might include local disorders of the blood vessels of the brain as a consequence of either reduced brain growth or impaired brain growth.
Stroke
April 2009
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