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Study: High Blood Pressure in Pregnancy May Affect Baby's Brain

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High blood pressure during pregnancy has always been a worry, but here’s some surprising news about a possible long-term effect: Researchers in Finland have found that adult men whose mothers’ pregnancies were complicated by high blood pressure are—wait for it—just not as smart as other guys. The men in the study, which was just published in the journal Neurology, were tested at age 20 and age 69, and performed worse on arithmetic reasoning and total cognitive ability at both ages than men whose mothers had no pregnancy hypertension symptoms. What’s more, these same guys also showed the greatest cognitive decline as they aged.

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Preeclampsia and other hypertensive disorders in pregnancy have already been linked to premature birth and low birthweight, both of which also contribute to lower cognitive ability. So while more research is clearly needed—for one thing, women were not included in this study—the findings do make sense. It’s the mother’s blood stream that delivers oxygen and nutrition to the fetus, so when the rhythm of that flow is disrupted, it stands to reason that brain development could be affected.

The good news: While the cognitive differences were statistically significant, they were still minimal—not severe or debilitating. And high blood pressure during pregnancy is manageable with proper prenatal care. Work with your doctor to get existing hypertension under control before you become, as well as to treat high blood pressure that develops while you’re carrying your baby. Stay on top of your pregnancy health.

Did you experience high blood pressure during pregnancy? Leave a comment.

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