Hypertensive pregnancy disorders, especially preeclampsia, a form of high blood pressure during pregnancy, may lead to adverse mental health conditions in children, say researchers. A Finnish study, published in the journal Hypertension, of 4,743 mother-child pairs found associations between hypertensive pregnancy disorders - including chronic hypertension (high blood pressure), gestational hypertension, preeclampsia and eclampsia - and childhood mental disorders.
Preeclampsia is a common pregnancy complication often characterised by high blood pressure and protein in the urine, which indicates damage to other organs including the liver and kidneys.
Eclampsia is a severe complication of preeclampsia in which high blood pressure during pregnancy results in seizures.
Maternal preeclampsia and its severity were associated with an increase in the risk of any childhood mental disorder and psychological development and behavioural and emotional disorders in the offspring.
"While previous studies have shown significant effects of preeclampsia on ADHD, autism spectrum disorder and schizophrenia in the offspring, a novel aspect of our findings was that the predisposing effects of maternal preeclampsia extended to any childhood mental disorder in the offspring," said study senior author Marius Lahti-Pulkkinen, from the University of Helsinki in Helsinki in Finland.
The researchers found that a 66 per cent higher risk of mental disorders among children whose mothers had preeclampsia; and a two-fold higher risk of childhood mental issues among children whose mothers had severe preeclampsia.
They also noted that the combination of maternal hypertensive disorders, overweight/obesity and diabetes disorders in pregnancy increase the cumulative incidence of childhood mental disorders from 6.6 per cent among offspring of mothers with none of those conditions to 22.2 per cent in offspring exposed to all of these three adverse maternal conditions.
"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," he said.
Hypertensive pregnancy disorders 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, the study noted.