Women with flu during pregnancy may increase autism risk factors on their babies

A study has shown that a percentage of women with flu or fever lasting more that a week during their pregnancy will eventually give birth to children with a higher risk factors for autism. The researcher of of Denmark’s University of Aarhus, Hjordis Osk Atladottir, MD, PhD did mentioned that 98% of the women in the study did not have children with autism even though they had fever, flu or even took antibiotics. So there is no need for a pregnant woman to be alarmed.

The research took into account babies born in Denmark between the years 1997 and 2002 and that included those that were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The results were published in the journal “Pediatrics”.

Can flu or fever cause autism?

The mothers under this study were asked about their illness during the pregnancy. They were required to mention whether or not they were relying on antibiotics during and after the birth of the child. In case of women who had sinus infections, cold, genital and urinary infections, there were no signs of an increased risk factor of autism in their children. Atladottir noted that this was reassuring because these cases of infections are the most common in pregnancies.

In the case of flu during pregnancy, the chances of having a child diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder before the age of 3 were two times more. But in the case of women who had flu for more than a week time, the chances for having an autistic child was increased by three. Overall the risk for autism in pregnancies remain low.

Is there a link between infections and the brain of the baby

Coleen Boyle, PhD, Director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, says that there is some research supporting the idea that when a pregnant animal fights off infections there are chances that the brain of the fetus ends up getting affected. She did underline the fact that it does not show a clear link between an infection in a pregnancy and the fact that a child develops autism later on. She added that pregnant women will tend to have flu infections much severe than those not pregnant.

This is why the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the CDC insist that pregnant women should get their flu shots especially during the flu season.

Nobody knows what really causes autism

Susan L. Hyman, MD who is a Pediatrics Professor said that the major strength in this research was the fact that the illness of the women being studied were reported months before they gave birth to the child. Had those reports been made years later after the child was diagnosed with autism they wouldn’t have had the same value. Susan is a Professor at University of Rochester.

Science is beginning to understand the role that genetics plays when it comes to autism, says Andrew Adesman, MD, a pediatrician who works at the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York. He added that when it comes to the non-genetic factors that contribute to the disorder, it is still a mystery. He continued saying that there are many possible causes that can result in autism. Even though many different lines of study are ongoing, eventually some of them will prove to be more fruitful at the expense of others.