In 2019, researchers from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Washington School of Medicine evaluated the relationship between maternal infections during hospitalization and neuropsychiatric outcome (al-Haddad, BJ, et al. Long-term risk of neuropsychiatric disease after exposure to infection in utero. JAMA Psychiatry. 2019 Mar 6. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry2019.0029).

A total of 1,791,520 Swedish children born between 1973 and 2014 were observed for up to 41 years using linked, population-based registries. Maternal infections while hospitalized during pregnancy included 1) any maternal infection, 2) severe infections such as sepsis, meningitis, encephalitis, pneumonia, influenza, pyelonephritis, or chorioamnionitis, and 3) urinary tract infections.

The authors found that any maternal infection during pregnancy significantly increased the likelihood of diagnosis of autism or depression in their offspring. No evidence was found, however, for an increase in the diagnosis of bipolar disorder or psychosis. The authors concluded “These results emphasize the importance of avoiding infections during pregnancy, which may impart subtle fetal brain injuries contributing to development of autism and depression.”

This study provides yet another reason to receive vaccines against pertussis and influenza during pregnancy.

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.