Pre-eclampsia increases cerebral palsy risk

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Premature and small babies born to mothers who had pre-eclampsia during pregnancy are at increased risk for cerebral palsy, but there is no added risk for full-term babies who are normal size, according to a new study.

Pre-eclampsia is a dangerous condition involving high blood pressure and protein in the urine. It affects 3% to 5% of pregnant women.

Researchers analyzed data from about 850 children with cerebral palsy and more than 616 000 children without the neurological disorder who were born in Norway between 1996 and 2006, for the study appearing online July 9 in the journal BMJ.

Children who were both born moderately preterm (between 32 and 36 weeks) or very preterm (less than 31 weeks) and whose mothers had pre-eclampsia had a significantly increased risk of cerebral palsy, if they were also smaller than usual at birth. Babies who were born at full-term and whose mothers had pre-eclampsia did not have an increased risk of cerebral palsy.

The results were the same after researchers adjusted for factors such as the mother's age, smoking during pregnancy, in vitro fertilization and sex of the child, according to a journal news release.

The findings suggest that doctors should take note of early signs of a smaller-than-average baby in a mother with pre-eclampsia, said study authors Kirstin Melheim Strand and Torstein Vik.

Although the study linked mother's pre-eclampsia and babies' prematurity and small size with cerebral palsy, it did not establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information

The March of Dimes has more about pre-eclampsia.

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