The researchers found that 16 percent of siblings from the exposed group had depression, compared with 3 percent from the non-exposed group; 8 percent from the exposed group were diagnosed with bipolar disorder, compared with 2 percent from the non-exposed group; and 7 percent from the exposed group suffered from anxiety in adulthood, compared with 2 percent from the non-exposed group.
"In all, among 17 diagnoses, 38 percent of the cases [those from the exposed group] are reported to have a psychological and/or behavioral disorder, as compared to 15 percent of controls," the researchers write. "In this study, adults exposed to HG in utero are significantly more likely to have a psychological and/or behavioral disorder than non-exposed adults."
These higher rates could stem from the mothers' prolonged malnutrition and dehydration during fetal brain development. And the anxiety and stress that are common during and after HG pregnancies may also play a part, the researchers said.
The researchers noted that the study has limitations. For instance, it was based on recall and self-reporting, which can lead to biased or incomplete responses, so the rates of diagnoses within each group should be treated with caution, they said.
Still, the very significant differences reported suggest that adults who were exposed to HG in utero could be at a nearly fourfold higher risk for lifelong neurobehavioral disorders in adulthood.
"HG is an understudied and undertreated condition of pregnancy that can result in not only short-term maternal physical and mental health problems but also potentially lifelong consequences to the exposed fetus," the researchers concluded.
|Contact: Enrique Rivero|
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences