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Study Finds Link Between Pre-eclampsia, Premature Birth and Cerebral Palsy

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Pre-eclampsia: Serious Health Condition in Pregnancy

Proper prenatal care is vital for both mother’s and baby’s health.  Health problems such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia in  pregnant women can cause serious consequences for the baby.  Pre-eclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure that occurs only during pregnancy, and symptoms typically include swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches, changes in vision, although some women with rapidly advancing pre-eclampsia may have no symptoms.  This is why it is so crucial to get proper prenatal care, as well as finding a doctor that will take your condition during pregnancy into serious consideration.  In fact, a recent study found a link between pre-eclampsia, pre-term birth and cerebral palsy.

Norwegian Study Discovers Link Between Pre-eclampsia, Pre-Term Birth and Cerebral Palsy

The study, published in BMJ, studied a group of pregnant Norwegian women between 1996 and 2006 and their children.  In total, the study included 849 children with cerebral palsy and over 600,000 children without cerebral palsy for comparison purposes.  The researchers found that the risk of a pregnant woman who had pre-eclampsia having a child with cerebral palsy was higher if the baby was born prematurely compared to mothers who did not have the condition.  However, the study also found that babies exposed to pre-eclampsia  that were born at less than 32 weeks gestation but were of normal size for their gestational age were at reduced risk of cerebral palsy compared to babies that were small for their gestational age and born prematurely.

Pre-eclampsia and Cerebral Palsy: A Complex Link

These results reveal the complicated nature of cerebral palsy, and its ties to pre-eclampsia and pre-term birth.  The exact cause of cerebral palsy is unknown and controversial–doctors, parents, and other experts all disagree.  However, the study authors note that pre-term birth and low birth weight are linked to higher risk of CP.  Pre-eclampsia affects about 3-5% of pregnant women and and contributes greatly to pre-term birth.  Furthermore, the researchers also noted that:

Placental dysfunction is common in pre-eclampsia before 34 weeks and can compromise blood supply, restrict fetal growth, cause chronic hypoxemia and possibly brain damage.  Hence it is possible that pre-eclampsia could be a risk factor for cerebral palsy.

Overall, they suggest that doctors could possibly help in reducing the likelihood of CP when considering the deliverance of babies exposed to pre-eclampsia by taking into account their size for their gestational age.  However, they stress that further studies would need to confirm their findings before these suggestions could be of clinical significance.