Pregnancy Flu Increases Risk Of Bipolar Disorder in Children

By Randell Suba , May 16, 2013 08:48 AM EDT

Exposure of pregnant women to flu increases the likelihood of the child to have bipolar disorder in adulthood. A study published on "JAMA Psychiatry" adds evidence to how children of mothers diagnosed with a common flu may be predisposed to conditions such as schizophrenia.

"Prospective mothers should take common sense preventive measures, such as getting flu shots prior to and in the early stages of pregnancy and avoiding contact with people who are symptomatic," Dr. Alan Brown of the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University suggested though a press release.

The new study involved 214 individuals born in Alameda County in California between 1955 through 1966 with mothers contracting flu during their pregnancy. Of the total subject population, 92 were later on diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The mothers of the kids who were evaluated signed up for the study between 1955 and 1966. They were all from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care and were recruited by the Child Health and Development Study. The CHDS was a collaboration between Kaiser Permanente and several universities.

The initial subject group was compared later on to 722 control subjects. The proponents of the study saw a four-fold increase in the chance of kids having bipolar disorder later on in life.

The research is the first to link maternal influenza to bipolar disorder. Brown and his colleagues, however, recommend further studies to confirm the increased risk.

Prior researches have established that there is a three-fold risk for schizophrenia in adult children when the mother is exposed to gestational influenza during the first four and a half months of pregnancy. Health experts were also able to establish the risk for autism in kids when the mother catches viral infections during her first trimester.

"Future research might investigate whether this same environmental risk factor might give rise to different disorders, depending on how the timing of the prenatal insult affects the developing fetal brain," shares Brown in a press statement.

The overlap of possible mental disorders led to the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States to lay the foundation for a new classification of mental disorders depending on dimensional mechanisms and brain circuits.

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