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Flu Ridden Pregnant Mothers Linked to a Baby’s Increased Risk for Bipolar Disorder

Update Date: May 09, 2013 02:55 PM EDT
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Contracting the flu can lead to several health complications, especially if its left untreated. Even though the flu can be relatively easily treated, a new study found that even if the flu is fully healed, it could have lasting effects especially when pregnant women get it. This new study, conduced by researchers from Columbia University and Kaiser Permanente, found that mothers that had the flu during their pregnancies increased the risk for bipolar disorder in their children.

The researchers analyzed the data compiled from the Northern California health plan, the county health care system and a mailed survey. The statistics came from pregnant mothers and their children between the years of 1959 and 1966. The total sample set composed to 814 pregnant mothers who had influenza. The researchers found that 92 children develop bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder affects about one out of 100 people, and now, this finding found that pregnant mothers with the flu increased their babies' risk for bipolar disorder from one percent to four percent.

"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 bipolar disorder," the co-author of the study, Alan Brown said. Brown is also a professor of clinical psychiatry and clinical epidemiology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City

Bipolar disorder is a neurological disorder that results in unexpected and uncontrollable shifts in moods, energy, and activity levels that can all hinder the person from carrying out a daily routine. Although the researchers could not determine why there was an increased risk for bipolar disorder, they recommend women get vaccinated to protect themselves and their babies.  

"We don't fully understand this. The best guess is it's an inflammatory response. It could also be a result of fever," said Brown. "Mothers should stay away from people who have the flu." The researchers believe that since pregnancies can be stressful, the added stress can impair the immune system, which increases the woman's chances of getting the flu.

The study was published in JAMA Psychiatry

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