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Keywords:

  • Adult age;
  • depressive symptoms in offspring;
  • pre-eclampsia

Please cite this paper as: Tuovinen S, Räikkönen K, Kajantie E, Pesonen A, Heinonen K, Osmond C, Barker D, Eriksson J. Depressive symptoms in adulthood and intrauterine exposure to pre-eclampsia: the Helsinki Birth Cohort Study. BJOG 2010;117:1236–1242.

Objective  We studied whether pre-eclampsia predicts depressive symptoms in offspring.

Design  Retrospective longitudinal cohort study.

Setting  Participants in the Helsinki Birth Cohort 1934–44 Study.

Population  We classed 788 women and men born at term after a normotensive, hypertensive or pre-eclamptic pregnancy, by using the mother’s blood pressure and urinary protein measurements, at maternity clinics and birth hospitals.

Methods  Linear and logistic regression analyses. We made adjustments for the mother’s age and body mass index (BMI) at delivery, the participant’s body size at birth/length of gestation, sex and childhood socio-economic status, age and educational attainment at testing.

Main outcome measures  Beck depression inventory (BDI) scores completed twice, at the ages of 60 and 63 years.

Result  Participants born after a primiparous pregnancy complicated by pre-eclampsia had over 30% (P < 0.04) higher depressive symptom scores in adulthood compared with those born after a primiparous normotensive pregnancy. We found no evidence of the association between pre-eclampsia and depression among participants born after multiparous pregnancies. Gestational hypertension and depressive symptoms were not significantly associated. The models adjusting for mother’s age and BMI at delivery, the participant’s body size at birth/length of gestation, sex, childhood socio-economic status, age and educational attainment at testing did not change the results.

Conclusion  Pre-eclampsia is associated with later depressive symptoms in individuals born at term and after a primiparous pregnancy. These findings are compatible with the adverse fetal ‘programming’ by a suboptimal prenatal environment.