Women who catch the flu during pregnancy may put their child at a higher risk for developing bipolar disorder later in life, a new study says.
A study of 814 expectant women, published in JAMA Psychiatry, showed that the flu made bipolar disorder four times more likely in children whose mothers had the virus while pregnant.
Scientists say the risks were small and women should not worry.
Researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center, however, did pinpoint a link between the disorder and experiences in the womb. The disorder is not often diagnosed until a person is their late teens or twenties.
In their study, which examined people born in the early 1960s, bipolar disorder was almost four times as common in those whose mothers experienced the flu while pregnant.
Professor Alan Brown, the lead researcher, estimated that catching the flu during pregnancy could lead to a 3% or 4% chance that the child would later have bipolar disorder.
However, in the vast majority of cases of people with bipolar disorder, there was no history of mothers having the flu during pregnancy
“The chances are still quite small. I don’t think it should raise alarms for mothers,” Brown said.
He recommended that all expectant mothers get a seasonal flu vaccine to lower their chances of catching the virus.