Preeclampsia is a condition that appears during pregnancy and is characterized by high blood pressure and protein in the urine. Now, in a new study, researchers have found that children with autism spectrum disorder were more than twice as likely to be born to mothers with preeclampsia during pregnancy, suggesting a link between the two.
The latest study involved over 1,000 children, between 2 and 3 years old, who were part of the Childhood Risks of Autism from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) Study in Northern California.Walker and her team also found that children with autism whose mothers had preeclampsia were more likely to have lower cognitive functioning. Additionally, they observed a correlation between preeclampsia and developmental delay without autism. "The level of detail obtained by the CHARGE Study on predictors, confounders and outcomes enabled a comprehensive exploration of this topic. While single studies cannot establish causality, the cumulative evidence supports efforts to reduce preeclampsia and diminish severity, to improve neonatal outcomes."
The researchers, from the University of California-Davis' MIND Institute, published their results in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. They also found that the likelihood of a diagnosis for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) increased further if the mother experienced more severe disease.
Preeclampsia typically occurs during middle to late pregnancy and up to 6 weeks after delivery, though it can sometimes appear earlier than 20 weeks. Symptoms for the condition include swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision.