Written by Dr. Dave Hnida, CBS4 Medical EditorA new study in the Journal Pediatrics suggests there may be a link between influenza during pregnancy and autism.

The same study says a pregnant woman who runs a fever for 7 days or more may also have a child with a higher risk.

But how much higher, and what’s the link?

Those are the tough questions that this study didn’t clearly answer.

It looked at 97,000 mothers back in the early 2000’s and found a slight increase in the risk when a mother had flu, but did not document a pattern at what point in the pregnancy the flu occurred.

autism Flu, Fever, And Autism

(credit: CBS)

It also didn’t take into account the actual temperature, or time during the pregnancy when the fever took place.

There did not seem to be a risk with everyday infections such as sinus infections, UTIs, or the common cold.

Now on the actual risk — and this is important — the odds of having the flu during pregnancy and delivering a child who did not go on to become autistic was more than 99 percent. Meaning the risk was actually less than 1 percent, which, at the time of the research, is less than the current rate of autism in the U.S, which is 1.3 percent.

Confusing, isn’t it? There always is when there is a lot of math.

So here’s the takeaway: we know severe illness can trigger problems in pregnancy, not just autism, but birth defects and miscarriage, among other things. Autism perhaps should now be added to the list. The risk is low but this interesting study demands that more research be done.

But here’s an even bigger bottom line: Flu can be prevented or made less severe. If you are pregnant or intending to become pregnant — get your flu shot.

A simple step to protect you and your baby.

RELATED: Researchers Find New Possible Clue For Cause Of Autism


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