Flu During Pregnancy May Be Linked to Autism Risk
"Our findings are interesting for research purposes, but they should not alarm women who are pregnant," says researcher Hjordis Osk Atladottir, MD, PhD, of Denmark’s University of Aarhus. "It needs to be emphasized that around 98% of the women in this study who experienced influenza or fever or took antibiotics during pregnancy did not have children with autism."
The study, published today in the journal Pediatrics, included children born in Denmark between 1997 and 2002, including those with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder.
Flu, Fever, and Autism
During their pregnancies and soon after giving birth, the mothers of the children were asked about their illnesses, fevers, and use of antibiotics.
There was no evidence of an increase in autism risk among children born to women who had colds, sinus infections, and urinary and genital tract infections during pregnancy.
This was reassuring because these are some of the most common infections among pregnant women, Atladottir says.
But having the flu during pregnancy was linked to a twofold increase in a woman’s chance of having a child diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder before the age of 3.
Children whose mothers reported having a fever lasting for more than a week had a threefold increase in autism risk.
Still, despite these increases, the overall risk remained low.
Does Infection Alter the Fetal Brain?
Animal studies suggest that fighting off infection during pregnancy can affect the developing fetal brain, says Coleen Boyle, PhD, who directs the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.
But she says it is not clear if fetal exposure to infection or fever plays any role -- even a small one -- in autism risk.
Boyle says flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant.
That is why the CDC and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend that pregnant women be especially vigilant about getting flu shots during flu season.
‘No Single Cause of Autism’
Pediatrics professor Susan L. Hyman, MD, of the University of Rochester Medical Center, says a major strength of the study was the reporting of illnesses during pregnancy and not years later after the children’s diagnosis was known.
Pediatrician Andrew Adesman, MD, says while the role of genetics in autism is beginning to be understood, the non-genetic contributors to the disorder mostly remain a mystery.
Adesman is chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.
"It is important to recognize that there is no single cause of autism," he says. "There are many different lines of research that are being pursued, and some will inevitably prove more fruitful than others."
November 12, 2012 at 7:56 PMI saw that on the news tonight! Ugh!!
ONE PER CENT of women with the flu during pregnancy have children with autism. How is 1% enough to make a correlation? Especially when they do no comparison with women who did get the flu shot?! There's no control group!!
And, because they did no study with the shot, they are jumping from 'flu causes autism (one per cent of the time!)' to 'the flu shot is safe and is the only way to prevent the flu in pregnancy.'
And they say it is the immune response that affects baby's brain. HELLO!!! Vaccines elicite immune response and affect babies' brains both directly and indirectly!!
There are so many things wrong with this POS "study"!
No thanks, I'm not an idiot!
by adamsmamaNovember 12, 2012 at 8:28 PM
I would never get the flu vaccine while pregnant. The flu vaccine is really for people who are elderly or have compromised respiratory or immune systems. Most other people can handle the flu just fine. I sign the flu vaccine waiver every year. Just my opinion of course.
by JoJoBean8November 13, 2012 at 9:54 PM
AH! I was going to post about this, you beat me to it. I was sooo frustrated when I heard this. And any mom who doesn't know better is surely going to be scared into getting the flu vaccine. I CANNOT BELIEVE THIS! It seriously made me sick.. In addititon to what jellyphish said, autism has been on the rise, is it 1/88? Was the flu not around 20 years ago when rates were 1/10,000?? Oh sorry I mean 34/10,000 according to the CDC's new study. This makes my blood boil.
by FrumpyMamaNovember 13, 2012 at 11:45 PM
A co-worker of mine gets the shot every year and every year she is drop dead sick with it. Why? To make it worse our Pharmacy is having a contest with other stores to see how many employees they can get to get it. Like it's some kind of game. SMH
by larissalarieNovember 14, 2012 at 12:10 AMLol, I read that yesterday
by Nee86November 14, 2012 at 1:40 AMYeah, saw that yesterday. Still not getting a flu shot. I actually had a fight with the EMS Officer for the fire department I work for because I refused to get a flu shot.