Study Links Flu During Pregnancy to Autism Risk

Children, whose mothers had fever during pregnancy are at a higher risk of developing infantile autism, says a new study from Denmark.

However, the study is exploratory and the children's risk of developing autism is almost the same as children whose mothers didn't have flu during pregnancy.

"Ninety-nine percent of women with influenza do not have a child with autism," Dr. Hjordis Osk Atladottir, from the University of Aarhus, lead author of the study told Reuters Health. "If it were me that was pregnant, I wouldn't do anything different from before, because our research is so early and exploratory."

The present study involved data available from 97,000 mothers between 1997 and 2003. No association was found between mothers' fever, cold, urinary tract and genital infection and autism development in the newborns. However, mothers who reported influenza during pregnancy had more than twice the risk of having a baby diagnosed with autism before the age of three. Those with severe forms of the flu were at three times more risk.

Irva Hertz-Picciotto a professor of environmental epidemiology at the University of California-Davis MIND Institute said that flu during pregnancy wasn't associated with autism but fever during pregnancy was linked to a two times greater risk of autism, USA Today reported.

"Mothers who reported a fever and reported not taking any medication to reduce fever were at higher risk to deliver a child that later developed autism. On the other hand, if they had a fever and took a medication to reduce fever, their child was not at higher risk," said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a professor of environmental epidemiology at the University of California-Davis MIND Institute told USA Today. Hertz-Picciotto wasn't involved in the study.

The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.

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