Nav: Home

Child's elevated mental ill-health risk if mother treated for infection during pregnancy

March 07, 2019

Risks for autism and depression are higher if one's mother was in hospital with an infection during pregnancy. This is shown by a major Swedish observational study of nearly 1.8 million children.

"The results indicate that safeguarding against and preventing infection during pregnancy as far as possible by, for instance, following flu vaccination recommendations, may be called for," says Verena Sengpiel, Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, and last author of the study, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Maternal infection with certain infectious agents, such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) or the herpes virus, are already known to be capable of harming fetal brain development and boosting the risk of certain psychiatric disorders.

The findings of the current study, however, also show that infection in general during pregnancy, too -- including when the actual infectious agent does not reach the fetal brain -- is related to elevated risk of the child developing autism or depression later in life.

More autism and depression

The study is based on data on all children, totaling almost 1.8 million, born in Sweden during the years 1973-2014. The particulars from the Swedish Medical Birth Register were linked to the national inpatient register, which records whether the mother was treated in hospital with an infection diagnosis during the pregnancy concerned.

Using the inpatient register, the researchers also monitored these children's mental health until 2014, when the oldest were aged 41.

It was found that if, during pregnancy, a mother with an infection diagnosis received hospital treatment, there was a marked rise in the risk of her child needing hospital care later in life, with a diagnosis of either autism or depression. The increase in risk was 79 percent for autism and 24 percent for depression.

In contrast, there was no association between the mothers being in hospital with an infection diagnosis during pregnancy and two other psychiatric diagnoses studied in their children: bipolar disorder and psychosis, including schizophrenia.

Increased risk even after mild infection

The pregnant women in the study may have been hospitalized with diagnoses other than infections, but then had infections diagnosed during their stay as well. The elevated risk of mental ill-health in the child was also evident after infections in the pregnant women that are usually considered mild, such as a common urinary tract infection.

The study, which was observational, provides no answer on how maternal infection during pregnancy affects fetal brain development. However, other studies have shown that an infection in the mother leads to an inflammatory reaction, and that some inflammatory proteins can affect gene expression in fetal brain cells.

Other research shows that inflammation in the mother boosts production of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the placenta, which may conceivably affect the unborn child's brain development.
-end-
The study was carried out in collaboration between researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy and colleagues at the UW (University of Washington) School of Medicine in Seattle, Washington, US.

Title: Long-term Risk of Neuropsychiatric Disease after Exposure to Infection in Utero; https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2727135

Contacts:
Associate Professor Verena Sengpiel; verena.sengpiel@obgyn.gu.se -- takes questions by email, not telephone
Professor Bo Jacobsson, +46 (0)705 600 162; bo.jacobsson@obgyn.gu.se

University of Gothenburg

Related Depression Articles:

Tackling depression by changing the way you think
A thought is a thought. It does not reflect reality.
How depression can muddle thinking
Depression is associated with sadness, fatigue and a lack of motivation.
Neuroimaging categorizes 4 depression subtypes
Patients with depression can be categorized into four unique subtypes defined by distinct patterns of abnormal connectivity in the brain, according to new research from Weill Cornell Medicine.
Studies suggest inflammatory cytokines are associated with depression and psychosis, and that anti-cytokine treatment can reduce depression symptoms
Studies presented at this year's International Early Psychosis Association meeting in Milan, Italy, (Oct.
Is depression in parents, grandparents linked to grandchildren's depression?
Having both parents and grandparents with major depressive disorder was associated with higher risk of MDD for grandchildren, which could help identify those who may benefit from early intervention, according to a study published online by JAMA Psychiatry.
Postpartum depression least severe form of depression in mothers
Postpartum depression -- a household term since actress Brooke Shields went public in 2005 about her struggle with it -- is indeed serious.
Tropical Depression 1E dissipates
Tropical Depression 1E or TD1E didn't get far from the time it was born to the time it weakened to a remnant low pressure area along the southwestern coast of Mexico.
Diagnosing depression before it starts
MIT researchers have found that brain scans may identify children who are vulnerable to depression, before symptoms appear.
Men actually recommend getting help for depression
Participants in a national survey read a scenario describing someone who had depressed symptoms.
Depression too often reduced to a checklist of symptoms
How can you tell if someone is depressed? The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) -- the 'bible' of psychiatry -- diagnoses depression when patients tick off a certain number of symptoms on the DSM checklist.

Related Depression Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Digital Manipulation
Technology has reshaped our lives in amazing ways. But at what cost? This hour, TED speakers reveal how what we see, read, believe — even how we vote — can be manipulated by the technology we use. Guests include journalist Carole Cadwalladr, consumer advocate Finn Myrstad, writer and marketing professor Scott Galloway, behavioral designer Nir Eyal, and computer graphics researcher Doug Roble.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#530 Why Aren't We Dead Yet?
We only notice our immune systems when they aren't working properly, or when they're under attack. How does our immune system understand what bits of us are us, and what bits are invading germs and viruses? How different are human immune systems from the immune systems of other creatures? And is the immune system so often the target of sketchy medical advice? Those questions and more, this week in our conversation with author Idan Ben-Barak about his book "Why Aren't We Dead Yet?: The Survivor’s Guide to the Immune System".