A new study suggests that while many infections in pregnant mothers raise their babies’ risk of cerebral palsy, common colds and the stomach flu do not. Other serious infections and the mother’s history of miscarriage or family history of cerebral palsy are spotlighted as increased risk to babies.  

Researchers say the study looked at 587 individuals with cerebral palsy and 1,154 without the condition. Michael E. O’Callaghan, PhD, of the University of Adelaide in Australia, one of the study’s authors, reported maternal infections including chicken pox and cytomegalovirus were greatly associated with cerebral palsy particularly in the second half of pregnancy. Pregnant women who suffered these infections were the mothers of 41% of people who had cerebral palsy compared to the 31% of people who did not have the disease.  

Additionally, the study suggested that the later in pregnancy fever or serious infections occurred, the higher the risk for cerebral palsy became. The chickenpox virus, staphylococcus bacteria, urinary tract infections all raised the risk for cerebral palsy by four to five times.

Bruce Young, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the New York University Langone Medical Center, was not involved in the study but reportedly discussed its findings with Reuters, stating that while there was no new information, the study reportedly extracted data from a large population to narrow the results down to a small sample. Young said it was reassuring that much of the factors associated with cerebral palsy could be singled out and identified. 

While the study indicates the greatest risk for cerebral palsy appears later in pregnancy, Young stressed to pregnant women the importance of consulting a doctor regarding infections or fever no matter at what point in the pregnancy they occur.

The study was published in the journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 

Source: Reuters Health Information