Maternal infections & Flu during pregnancy are associated with increased risk of schizophrenia

Recent studies have indicated that children who born to mothers who suffer from flu, viruses and other infections during the pregnancy are at significantly increased risk of schizophrenia - up to 700% higher than children who are not exposed to flu/viruses during the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. A recent research study announced in April 2004 by Columbia University identified that approximately 14% of schizophrenia cases seem to have been caused by influenza during pregnancy.

The study indicated that Flu during the first trimester of pregnancy increased risk of developing schizophrenia in the child by approx. 700%, while flu during the third trimester increased schizophrenia risk for the child by 300%.

"This is the first time that this association has been shown using blood tests that confirmed influenza infection during pregnancy", lead author Dr. Alan S. Brown, from Columbia University in New York, told Reuters Health. "It provides what I think is the strongest evidence to date linking (prenatal) influenza exposure with schizophrenia."

The findings reinforce recommendations that women of childbearing age be vaccinated against influenza, Brown continued. However, because the mechanism underlying the schizophrenia connection is unknown, "we may not want to give the vaccine during pregnancy," he said. Until more is known, "it's possible that vaccination (during pregnancy) could have a harmful effect."

Action: The safest approach to pregnancy (with regard to avoiding schizophrenia) that some researchers are suggesting is to become pregnant only after (at least several weeks after) taking a vaccination shot. The annual vaccination shots typically become available in early Fall (October/November in North America) so November, December or January may be best for beginning a pregnancy if you want to minimize the risk of your child developing schizophrenia. Additionally, pregnant women may want to take extra efforts to avoid exposure to influenza and other viruses during pregnancy. Precautions such as regular washing of hands, minimizing stress and staying well rested so that the immune system is strong, healthy eating, regularly taking prenatal vitamins, and avoidance of sick people might also be undertaken.

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