Study sees link between mom's flu, bipolar risk for children

May 8, 2013 by Steven Reinberg, Healthday Reporter
Study sees link between mom's flu, bipolar risk for children
But the risk is small and the connection hasn't been proven, researchers say.

(HealthDay)—Women who come down with the flu during pregnancy may be at increased risk of having a child who develops bipolar disorder, a new study suggests.

The chance of a child eventually developing the was nearly four times higher when comparing mothers-to-be who had the to those who didn't, the researchers reported.

"We don't fully understand this," said study co-author Dr. Alan Brown. "The best guess is it's an . It could also be a result of fever," he noted.

"Mothers should stay away from people who have the flu," said Brown, a professor of and at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.

However, he added, regarding the new findings, "women should not be greatly concerned, because a fourfold increase is pretty high from an epidemiological standpoint, but still the vast majority of the offspring did not get ."

Brown explained that "the risk of bipolar disorder in the population is about 1 percent, so if it's increased fourfold that would make it a 4 percent risk." Moreover, the researchers only looked at one risk factor for bipolar disorder, not all , which could skew these results, he noted.

The report was published in the May 8 online edition of JAMA Psychiatry.

Bipolar disorder, also called manic-depressive illness, causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out . Bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

The condition often develops in the late teens or early adult years. Some people have their first symptoms during childhood, while others may develop symptoms as adults, the agency noted.

For the study, researchers at Columbia University and Kaiser Permanente identified cases of bipolar disorder by database linkages of a Northern California health plan and a county health care system, along with data from a mailed survey.

Participants were mothers who gave birth between 1959 and 1966 and their offspring. Researchers found 92 cases of bipolar disorder and compared them with 722 people matched in terms of occurrence of maternal influenza during pregnancy.

While the new study found an association of pregnant women getting the flu and a higher risk of bipolar disorder in their offspring, it didn't establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

"There is no understanding of the causal factors of this," said Dr. Alan Manevitz, a clinical psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. He was not involved with the study.

"Pregnancy itself puts extra stress on women in general," he pointed out. "Pregnancy also affects the immune system and increases the risk of getting the flu."

Flu during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and low birth weight infants, Manevitz said.

Pregnant women should get a flu shot, both Manevitz and Brown suggested.

Other studies have shown a similar association between flu during pregnancy and the child's risk for autism and schizophrenia—now there is this association with bipolar disorder, Manevitz said. "This doesn't give us any causal connection," he emphasized.

Explore further: Lawson researcher sings the baby blues

More information: To learn more about bipolar disorder, visit the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.

Related Stories

Lawson researcher sings the baby blues

August 22, 2012
The impact of bipolar disorder during pregnancy has been hotly contended among the research community. Now, a new study from Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University is sorting out the debate and calling for ...

Pregnancy and birth complications more likely in mothers with bipolar disorder

November 8, 2012
Babies born to mothers with bipolar disorder are at increased risk of preterm birth (before 37 weeks) a study published today on BMJ website suggests.

Scientists pinpoint gene variations linked to higher risk of bipolar disorder

October 10, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have identified small variations in a number of genes that are closely linked to an increased risk of bipolar disorder, a mental ...

Replicating risk genes in bipolar disorder

October 15, 2012
One of the biggest challenges in psychiatric genetics has been to replicate findings across large studies.

Recommended for you

Modulating molecules: Study shows oxytocin helps the brain to modulate social signals

January 17, 2018
Between sights, sounds, smells and other senses, the brain is flooded with stimuli on a moment-to-moment basis. How can it sort through the flood of information to decide what is important and what can be relegated to the ...

Reducing sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy does not affect effectiveness

January 17, 2018
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) patients treated with as few as five sessions of trauma-focused psychotherapy find it equally effective as receiving 12 sessions.

How past intentions influence generosity toward the future

January 17, 2018
Over time, it really is the thought that counts – provided we know what that thought was, suggests new research from Duke University's Fuqua School of Business.

Tracking the impact of early abuse and neglect

January 17, 2018
Children who experience abuse and neglect early in life are more likely to have problems in social relationships and underachieve academically as adults.

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

Study: No evidence to support link between violent video games and behaviour

January 16, 2018
Researchers at the University of York have found no evidence to support the theory that video games make players more violent.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.