Pregnancy, Fever, and Autism

Fevers during pregnancy are never normal, so an exam is always recommended. Luckily, if the fever was caused by a viral illness, hydration and Tylenol are usually enough for recovery. But if the cause is bacterial, an antibiotic is often needed. Pregnant women should not take aspirin or ibuprofen.

The next important step is uncovering the cause of the fever. A fever during pregnancy is often a symptom of an underlying condition that could potentially be harmful to your growing baby.

What could be causing my fever during pregnancy?

When you’re pregnant, your immune system is doing double duty trying to protect both you and baby, so you may be more susceptible to colds and fevers during pregnancy.

When should I go to the doctor with my fever during pregnancy?

If your fever doesn’t go away in 24 to 36 hours, you should see your doctor. Also, you should go to the doctor if you experience any of these signs with your fever: abdominal pain, nausea, contractions or a rash. Your fever could be a symptom of other conditions like cytomegalovirus, flu, cold, food poisoning, HIV/AIDS, IBD, syphilis, toxoplasmosis or varicella.

How will a fever affect my baby?  

If an expectant mother’s body temperature goes from 98.6 degrees to a fever, it’s a sign that she is fighting an infection. That’s why it’s essential to seek treatment right away.

A new study done on animal embryos does show a link between fever early in pregnancy and an increased risk of heart and jaw defects at birth. Further research is needed to establish whether fever itself and not the infection causing it, increases the risk of birth defects in humans.

If you are in your first trimester and have a fever higher than 102 degrees, be sure to seek treatment right away. This may help prevent short- and long-term complications for your developing baby.

Fevers are often caused by urinary tract infections and respiratory viruses, but other infections could also be to blame. Having fever and other infections are very risky for the baby and may cause birth defects. According to one new study involving fever during pregnancy suggests that women who had a fever while pregnant had twice the risk of their baby having autism.

Scientists suspect that aside from a faulty gene or genes might make a person more likely to develop autism when there are also other factors present, such as a chemical imbalance, viruses or chemicals, or a lack of oxygen at birth. In a few cases, an autistic behavior is caused by Rubella (German measles) in the pregnant mother.

One of the most frustrating things about Autism, of course, is that we really don’t know what causes it. Researchers have identified certain risk factors, and many other potential causes have been identified (and left wanting for scientific evidence).

The findings mesh with other research linking diabetes and obesity during pregnancy to a higher risk of having a child with a developmental delay or autism. The two conditions – fever and diabetes – are associated with an inflammatory response in the body that researchers say may injure the developing brain. The study did not show an elevated risk of having a child with autism if mothers had the flu. But a fever from any cause, such as a bacterial infection, during pregnancy, was twice as likely to be described by mothers with children with autism and 2.5 times more likely in mothers of children with developmental delays.

Mothers who took anti-fever medication had the same risk of having a child with autism as mothers who reported no fever, the study found.

The fever study raises the question of whether chemicals the body releases to fight infection, called cytokines, may pass through the placenta and have a damaging effect on the fetus, said Ousseny Zerbo, lead author of the study, who was a doctoral candidate with UC Davis when the study was conducted.

Zerbo said cytokines are produced during acute inflammation that occurs when someone has a fever. The chemicals are also produced steadily in people with diabetes, who have a 2.3 times higher risk of having a child with developmental delays

Don’t worry too much, however, as the chances you’ll be in that situation are slim and a lot more research still needs to be done before any definitive conclusions can be drawn. Bottom line: Prevention and swift treatment are your best defense against fevers during pregnancy — and any concerns you may have.




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