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Memory risk from pregnancy high blood pressure

Thursday December 31st 2020

Women who have experienced pre-eclampsia may have a risk of impaired memory and thinking skills several years later, Dutch researchers have reported.

The work was done by Dr Maria Adank of Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and her team.

Up to 6% of pregnancies are affected by pre-eclampsia, or high blood pressure, which carries a risk of brain injury, kidney and liver problems, pulmonary oedema and seizures.

The team investigated 596 pregnant women, of whom 115 developed high blood pressure alone, or with increased protein in the urine, after week 20 of pregnancy.

When followed up 15 years later, those who had high blood pressure in pregnancy had on average lower scores on memory tests, after taking into account factors that can affect these test results such as education level.

No differences were seen on tests of fine motor skills, verbal fluency, processing speed or visual-spatial ability.

The study is published in Neurology.

Dr Adank says: "Women with high blood pressure that starts in pregnancy, as well as women with pre-eclampsia, should be monitored closely after their pregnancy and they and their physicians should consider lifestyle changes and other treatments that may help reduce their risk of decline in their thinking and memory skills later in life.

"It's important to consider gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia as risk factors for cognitive impairment. Many women may think of this as a temporary issue during pregnancy and not realise that it could potentially have long-lasting effects."

She calls for future studies on the potential cognitive benefits of early treatment for high blood pressure in pregnancy.

Adank, M. C. et al. Neurology 30 December 2020.

Tags: Brain & Neurology | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Europe | Nursing & Midwifery | Women's Health & Gynaecology

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