Bipolar Disorder Linked to Prenatal Flu Exposure
What soon-to-be moms can do to take preventative measures.
A recent study suggests another reason why pregnant women should consider the flu vaccine. Researchers believe prenatal exposure to the flu may increase a child’s risk of developing bipolar disorder later in life by nearly fourfold.
While the study conducted cannot prove gestational influenza causes a child to develop the mental disorder, the association suggests that it may be preventable.
"The idea is that if influenza is playing a causal role - and we can't say that from one study - there is a vaccine," Dr. Alan Brown, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University, said in an interview with Reuters
. "It's affordable and also I would argue that there are other things that pregnant women could do. For example, hand washing and staying away from people with the flu."
In the study, the researchers looked for a connection between flu exposure and a child’s bipolar diagnoses. In collected data, they found of the 92 kids who were exposed to the flu while in the womb, 9 percent were later diagnosed with the mental illness. The number is 7 percentage points higher than those who were not exposed.
"What we found is that (schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) share at least this in common. Maternal influenza is related to bipolar disorder," Brown said.
Brown said they did not find and link between the mental illness and a mother’s common cold or other upper respiratory infections.
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