Mother's who have high blood pressure during pregnancy affect their child's brain power throughout its life according to a new study.

According to report author Katri Raikonen, from the University of Helsinki, "high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia affect a baby's environment in the womb in about 10% of pregnancies".

Hypertension may alter conditions in the womb which impairs foetal growth, so the team looked at the results of 400 men on the Finnish Defence Force Test whose mothers' blood pressure had been recorded previously.

Those whose mothers had hypertension when pregnant not only scored lower marks at age 20 and also showed greater score decline when tested again at 69.

"Our study suggests that even declines in thinking abilities in old age could have originated during the prenatal period when the majority of the development of brain structure and function occurs," Raikonen said.

Risks to children born to mother's with hypertension have previously been reported, but this study is the first to show possible long lasting affects on cognitive ability.

Prof Jeremy Pearson, from the British Heart Foundation, said: "Previous work by our scientists led to the recognition that children born to mothers with raised blood pressure during pregnancy have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke when they grow up.

"This study suggests high blood pressure during pregnancy has another, previously unrecognised effect and further emphasises the importance of early recognition and treatment of raised blood pressure in pregnancy."

Posted 03/10/2012 by richard.hook@pavpub.com