Nav: Home

Expectant mothers can prevent fetal brain problems caused by the flu, study finds

March 14, 2019

AURORA, Colo. (March 14, 2019) - Choline, an essential B vitamin nutrient, can prevent fetal brain developmental problems that often occur after prenatal maternal infections such as colds and influenza (flu).

The study, published today in the Journal of Pediatrics, is led by members of the University of Colorado School of Medicine faculty at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. The findings are critical because viruses, such as the flu, in pregnant women, have been linked with fetal brain problems and mental illness like Attention Deficit Disorder and Schizophrenia later in life.

"Mothers want to give their babies the best possible start in life. Colds and flu are often unavoidable, even if the mother has had a flu shot. But colds and flu during pregnancy double the risk of future mental illnesses. More and more information show that choline helps the baby's brain develop properly," said Robert Freedman, MD, professor of psychiatry, University of Colorado School of Medicine. "We found that higher levels of choline prevent fetal brain problems from developing, even when the mother is infected. Choline supplements in pregnancy can have a lifelong benefit for the infant."

The study was conducted at the University of Colorado and Denver Health Medical Center's Prenatal Clinic, with prenatal assessments of maternal infection, C-Reactive Protein (CRP, a marker of maternal inflammation) and the mothers' choline levels. The baby's brain development before birth was assessed by measuring the baby's brain waves soon after birth. The harmful effects of maternal infections were seen in a reduction of the normal inhibition, also known as response inhibition, of newborns' brain waves to repeated sounds. Simply put, response inhibition is the ability to cease or delay an action and to be able to reflect rather than display impulsive behavior.
  • Newborns' response inhibition decreased by 27 percent when mothers had an infection, such as a cold or flu, during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

  • This effect was prevented if the mother had higher choline levels in the first 16 weeks.

    Parents completed reports of their child's behavior when the child was one year of age.
  • Children whose mothers were infected, and had lower choline levels, had significantly decreased ability to pay attention, play quietly and cuddle with their parents. These effects did not occur if the mother had higher choline levels.

  • These characteristics are summarized in a scale of Self Regulation, which was reduced 28 percent in children of women with infection and lower choline levels. Higher choline levels improved Self Regulation in the children of women with infection to normal levels.

  • Five of 53 children whose mothers had an infection (9.4 percent) had Regulation levels in the lowest fifth percentile of a normal sample, compared to one of 83 children of mothers without an infection. This effect did not occur if their mothers had choline levels greater than 7 micromolar during gestation. This level was achieved by only 25 percent of the women, despite encouragement to eat foods with more choline in their diet.
The body creates some choline on its own and it is also naturally present in certain foods, including liver, red meat and eggs. However, up to 75 percent of pregnant women consume less choline during pregnancy than recommended (450 mg of choline per day). Additionally, little or no amounts are present in prenatal vitamins. Supplements, available without a prescription and now recommended by the American Medical Association, can help mothers make sure they have high choline levels that their babies need.
-end-
This study was conceived and initiated by the late Randal G. Ross.

About the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

The largest academic health center in the Rocky Mountain region, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is a world-class medical destination at the forefront of transformative science, medicine, education, and healthcare. The campus encompasses the University of Colorado health professional schools, numerous centers and institutes, and two nationally ranked hospitals that treat more than 2 million adult and pediatric patients each year. Innovative, interconnected and highly collaborative, together we deliver life-changing treatments, patient care, and professional training, and conduct world-renowned research powered by more than $500 million in research awards.

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Related Pregnancy Articles:

Paracetamol during pregnancy can inhibit masculinity
Paracetamol during pregnancy can inhibit masculinity Paracetamol during pregnancy can inhibit the development of 'male behavior' in mice.
The cost of opioid use during pregnancy
A new study published today by the scientific journal Addiction reveals that the incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome -- often caused by mothers using opioids during pregnancy -- is increasing in the United States, and carries an enormous burden in terms of hospital days and costs.
New study: Pre-pregnancy BMI directly linked to excess pregnancy weight gain
It's well known that excessive weight gain during pregnancy can have a lasting negative impact on the health of a mother and her baby.
Pregnancy-specific β1-glycoproteins
Development of new strategies and novel drug design to treat trophoblastic diseases and to provide pregnancy success are of crucial importance in maintenance the female reproductive health.
Should hypothyroidism in pregnancy be treated?
When a woman becomes pregnant, many changes occur in her body.
Pre-pregnancy progesterone helps women with recurrent pregnancy loss
Women who have had two or more unexplained miscarriages can benefit from natural progesterone treatment before pregnancy, a new a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago shows.
Male pipefish pregnancy, it's complicated
In the upside-down world of the pipefish, sexual selection appears to work in reverse, with flashy females battling for males who bear the pregnancy and carry their young to term in their brood pouch.
Pregnancy leads to changes in the mother's brain
A study directed by researchers from the UAB and IMIM are the first to reveal how pregnancy causes long-lasting alterations in brain structure, probably related to improving the mother's ability to protect and interact with the child.
MRIs during pregnancy and outcomes for infants, children
In an analysis that included more than 1.4 million births, exposure to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) during the first trimester of pregnancy compared with nonexposure was not associated with increased risk of harm to the fetus or in early childhood, although gadolinium MRI at any time during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk of a broad set of rheumatological, inflammatory, or skin conditions and, possibly, for stillbirth or neonatal death, according to a study appearing in the Sept.
The benefits of exercise during pregnancy
Women who exercise during pregnancy are more likely to deliver vaginally than those who do not, and show no greater risk of preterm birth.

Related Pregnancy 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

Climate Crisis
There's no greater threat to humanity than climate change. What can we do to stop the worst consequences? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can save our planet and whether we can do it in time. Guests include climate activist Greta Thunberg, chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox, research scientist Sean Davis, food innovator Bruce Friedrich, and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...