Children born to women who suffered a high blood pressure condition called pre-eclampsia during pregnancy are twice as likely to have autism or other developmental delays, US researchers said Monday.

The study in the journal JAMA Paediatrics, a journal of the American Medical Association, also found that the more severe the pre-eclampsia, the higher the likelihood of autism.

The research involved more than 1,000 children aged two to three in northern California. All of their mothers had confirmed diagnoses of pre-eclampsia, and scientists compared data about those developing normally to those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or other developmental delays.

“We found significant associations between pre-eclampsia and ASD that increased with severity,” said senior author Cheryl Walker, assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of California, Davis.

“We also observed a significant association between severe pre-eclampsia and developmental delay.”

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