Study: Getting the flu while pregnant may increase risk of having child with autism

Posted at 8:12 PM, Nov 12, 2012
and last updated 2012-11-12 20:12:17-05

A new study says women who catch the flu or run a fever while pregnant may have an increased risk of having a child with autism.

Yelba Castello Lopez is getting regular check-ups before she gives birth to her first child.

She knows it's important to stay healthy for herself and her unborn baby.

“I do everything that I can not to get sick. I wash my hands a lot, I use hand sanitizer, I got the flu shot,” says Castello.

A new study suggests women who get sick with the flu or fever during pregnancy may have an increased chance of having a child with autism.

The Danish study looked at nearly $97,000 children and found kids had twice the risk of being diagnosed with autism before age 3 if their mom got the flu. The risk increased three fold if the mother had a fever for more than a week while pregnant.

“Common sense would say it wouldn't be good for the baby to be exposed to high temperatures or a virus that is in your blood stream,” says Dr. Denise Sur with UCLA Medical Center.

But researchers say the overall risk is still very low and caution the results are very preliminary and could be due to chance.

“Their own conclusion from this study is that they need to do more study,” says Sur.

The CDC estimates 1 in 88 children in the United States has Autism. The cause of the developmental disorder - which affects communication and behavior - is still unclear

Doctors say moms should not panic.

“I try not to be under stress all the time and worried all the time but yeah, I mean if I were to get sick, it would be in the back of my mind,” says Castellon.

Researchers did not find an increased risk for women who got sinus infections, urinary tract infections or the common cold.