Background and objectives. Preeclampsia often has detrimental health effects for pregnant women and their fetuses, but whether exposure has long-term health-consequences for children as they grow up remains poorly understood. We assessed overall morbidity of children following exposure to either mild or severe preeclampsia up to 30 years after birth and related disease risks to duration of exposure, i.e. the time from diagnosis to delivery.
Methodology. We did a registry-based retrospective cohort study in Denmark covering the years 1979-2009, using the separate diagnoses of mild and severe preeclampsia and the duration of exposure as predictor variables for specific and overall risks of later disease. We analyzed 3,537,525 diagnoses for 14 disease groups, accumulated by 758,524 singleton children, after subdividing deliveries in six gestational age categories, partialing out effects of eight potentially confounding factors.
Results. Exposure to mild preeclampsia appeared to have consistent negative effects on health later in life, although only a few specific disease cases remained significant after corrections for multiple testing. Morbidity risks associated with mild preeclampsia were of similar magnitude as those associated with severe preeclampsia. Apart from this overall trend in number of diagnoses incurred across disease groups, hazard ratios for several disorders also increased with the duration of exposure.
Conclusions and implications. Maternal preeclampsia has lasting effects on offspring health and differences between exposure to severe and mild preeclampsia appear to be less than previously assumed. Our results suggest that it would be prudent to include the long-term health prospects of children in the complex clinical management of mild preeclampsia.