Exposure to viral infection, especially herpes, may increase the risk of preeclampsia and preterm birth, research shows.
A study of 1,326 newborn babies over 10 years linked viral infection with pregnancy-induced hypertensive disease in pregnancy.
High blood pressure in pregnancy occurs in up to 10% of first pregnancies in the UK but its causes have remained an enigma for decades.
Lead author Alastair MacLennan said: “This is an exciting finding and further studies are now required to look at the link between viral exposure in pregnancy and genetic susceptibility to adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as high blood pressure, premature delivery and cerebral palsy.”
Author Paul Goldwater added: “We are just beginning to understand the interaction and importance of exposure to viruses and genetic susceptibility to infection both in pregnancy and the newborn.”
This research was published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.