At BIPR, Zero to Five and Therapeutic Preschool services encourage successful, healthy cognitive and social development in children. Children who benefit from these services include those on the autistic spectrum. Recent research by a team at University of California-Davis shows that fever during pregnancy increases a child’s risk to have autism or a developmental delay.
In the study, mothers of 538 children with autism, 163 children with developmental delays, and 421 typically developing children took a survey about having the flu during pregnancy and treating the illness. The results of the study indicated that it was not necessarily the flu, but the fever associated with the flu, that led to developmental problems. Children whose mothers had not combated a fever during pregnancy were 2.12 times more likely to have autism and 2.5 times more likely to have a developmental delay. Irva Hertz-Picciotto, a professor of public health sciences at UC Davis, explained that it was the body’s inflammatory response to fever that leads to these results. Pro-inflammatory cytokines from the body’s immune response can cross the placenta and alter neurotransmitters and the brain in the fetus. Similar observations are linked to mothers with metabolic problems like diabetes or obesity, which involve chronic inflammation. Hertz-Picciotto commented that “more research is necessary to pinpoint the ways that inflammation could alter brain development”. However, related studies have already shown that avoiding pollution and taking prenatal vitamins early in pregnancy are two ways to reduce the risk for autism and developmental delays.
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