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How the hormones of pregnancy affect your brain

Women who have hypertension complications in pregnancy should be vigilant regarding their health after pregnancy. They are more at risk for many conditions including chronic hypertension. In a new study that is seeking to understand some of the effects of pregnancy on the brain has now found some interesting findings. Eclampsia and Preeclampsia, like reading, and massive use of petrochemicals (as well as other things!) separates us from the animals. As far as we know there is no native animal disease that is like the pregnancy disease of eclampisa. Eclmapsia is the high blood pressure and kidney disease accompanied by seizures in the second half of pregnancy. Thankfully eclampsia is rare, the seizures are self limited, and it is extraordinarily rare to occur in a second pregnancy. Moreover the seizures, being so short, basically have been thought to have no real long term consequence for the women so suffer this potentially devastating disease in pregnancy. Following women after these difficult pregnancies has been difficult. But in the Netherlands they have data banks of patients, virtually all citizens, going back to each of their births. Insights from this sort of data we barely can only dream about in the US. Newer findings that actually are looking at both the brain anatomy by MRIs and the brain functioning by cognitive tests years after eclampsia have started to reveal that, in fact, the seizures may specifically cause white matter damage that can lead to long term brain function problems. So: avoiding preeclampsia, preventing preeclampsia from becoming eclampsia and getting proper post eclampsia evaluations is probably what needs to happen next, other than more research on the topic. We will stay tuned for more information on brain health after pregnancy.

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