Risk Of Bipolar Nearly Quadrupled

Influenza during pregnancy is not only miserable for Mom, but new research has shown that it may be linked to developing bipolar disorders later in life.

Pregnancy and influenza

Influenza, a seasonal respiratory illness that is very contagious, can cause mild or severe illness and can occasionally result in death for certain populations. The influenza vaccine can prevent many cases and is available for pregnant women. In addition to avoiding the virus for your own health and safety, new research has linked maternal influenza infection with an increased risk of their child developing bipolar disorder later in life.

Viral link to psychiatric disorders

Researchers combed over medical records from 1959 to 1966 of pregnant women who received obstetric care from Kaiser Permanente Health Plan’s Northern California region as well as records from a county behavioral facility. They also contacted and conducted interviews with the mothers and their adult children.

They found 72 cases of bipolar disorder through interviews of 214 individuals, and another 23 from a previous study called Prenatal Determinants of Schizophrenia Study, which also asked about bipolar disorder.

When compared to individuals who had no psychiatric disorders, and comparing influenza rates in their mothers, it was found that bipolar disorder was nearly 4 times more likely to occur if Mom had influenza during her pregnancy. Exposure during pregnancy at any time was correlated with an increased risk, although third-trimester influenza infections seemed to be associated with a higher risk.

What this means to you

The study was weakened by the very small sample size they had to work with, but it is still something that pregnant women should consider during flu season. We are thankfully mostly out of influenza season this year, but pregnant women are usually encouraged by their doctors to get a flu vaccine. Also, avoid large crowds if possible during the flu season and wash your hands frequently.

The study didn’t find an increased incidence of bipolar disorder with other respiratory or viral illnesses, but it’s still a good idea to try to keep those germs at bay -- nothing is more miserable while pregnant than being sick.

More on pregnancy health

10 Foods every pregnant woman should eat
Keeping your emotions in check during pregnancy
Pregnancy healthy meal planner


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