pregnant woman According to a new study published in BMJ, women who suffer from preeclampsia are at increased risk of giving birth to newborns with cerebral palsy if the newborns are premature or smaller than normal at birth. Preeclampsia is said to affect up to 5% of pregnancies. The condition can lead to medically necessary premature delivery and increased risk of death to both mother and child. In the past researchers have reported a connection between cerebral palsy and premature birth, but there have also been studies that reported the opposite.

Researchers from Norway pulled data from the CPRN (Cerebral Palsy Registry of Norway) and MBRN (Medical Birth Registry of Norway) for use in the study. Information was collected from singleton pregnancies and births only. Births information was reported between 1996 and 2006.

A total of 849 children with cerebral palsy were located for the purpose of the study. The researchers also included information from a control group of more than 615,000 children born without cerebral palsy. All children were diagnosed with cerebral palsy by the age of four based on guidelines in Europe.

Researchers then split the data into three groups – term, preterm and very preterm. After adjusting for IVF, child gender, smoking during pregnancy and other factors researchers found a clear connection between preterm and very preterm infants born to mothers with preeclampsia and risk of cerebral palsy. There did not appear to be an increased risk of cerebral palsy when children were born at a normal weight.

According to the study, birth weight and preeclampsia are both risk factors for cerebral palsy. Researchers noted that the increased risk of cerebral palsy was more likely associated with premature birth and low birth weight than preeclampsia, but preeclampsia increases the risk of both factors thus the connection to increased risk of cerebral palsy in newborns born to mothers with preeclampsia.

Source: Kristin Melheim Strand, Runa Heimstad, Ann-Charlotte Iversen, Rigmor Austgulen, Stian Lydersen, Guro L Andersen, Lorentz M Irgens, Torstein Vik. Mediators of the association between pre-eclampsia and cerebral palsy: population based cohort study. BMJ 2013.