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Health & Pregnancy

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Genes From Mom & Dad Tied to Preeclampsia

Link Stronger in Women, Norwegian Study Shows
WebMD Health News

Sept. 15, 2005 -- Preeclampsia, a potentially life-threatening form of high blood pressure during pregnancy, can run in families, a new study shows.

If untreated, preeclampsia can damage the mother's liver or kidneys, deprive the fetus of oxygen, and cause maternal seizures (eclampsia).

Sons and daughters born from preeclampsia pregnancies may carry genes related to the condition, according to the study, which appears in BMJ Online First.

The researchers who worked on the study included Rolv Skjaerven of the Medical Birth Registry of Norway, a branch of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Like Mother, Like Child

Preeclampsia happens during pregnancy, so men don't experience it. But that doesn't let them totally off the hook.

Men born from preeclampsia pregnancies are 50% more likely to father a preeclampsia pregnancy than other men, the study shows.

That's a "moderately increased risk," write the researchers. They note that the link appears to be stronger for women.

Women born from preeclampsia pregnancies are more than twice as likely to have preeclampsia pregnancies, the researchers note.

The data came from Norway's medical birth registry, which includes every baby born in Norway since 1967. That's more than 2 million babies.

Sisters, Brothers

Preeclampsia is most common in first-time pregnancies. Women who have preeclampsia with their first pregnancy won't necessarily have preeclampsia with later pregnancies.

The researchers took that into account. It didn't change their findings.

Then, the scientists took another look at the family tree. They wanted to see if children born to women who had had preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy were likely to have preeclampsia.

The answer was yes for girls and no for boys. Birth order didn't change that.

Sisters of babies born from preeclampsia pregnancies were twice as likely to have preeclampsia as women with no family history of the condition.

Brothers of preeclampsia babies were as likely to father preeclampsia pregnancies as men with no family preeclampsia history, the study shows.

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