Influenza, Pregnancy, and Bi-Polar Disorder’s Relationship

The Flu and Pregnancy


The JAMA published a story about a study of 814 pregnant women.  It was determined that there was a relationship between contracting influenza while expecting, and bi-polar disorder in certain cases.

The risk is low, but there is a four times higher risk.  The same results have shown a relationship with the flu and schizophrenia.  The JAMA says that women should not be overly concerned, but that they should receive vacinations to prevent, or lesson the symptoms, of influenza.

Bipolar disorder leads to extreme mood swings, which, in some cases, may last for months.  Emotions may exist from depression or despair, to manic joy, over activity, and a loss of inhibitions.

Researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center performed the study and discovered the relationship when the diagnosis was made of teens and those in their early twenties, and they discovered a connection to their mother’s maladies when they were in the womb.

The lead researcher, Professor Alan Brown, said that approximately 1 out of 100 cases were determined to be related the influenza.  The chances of a child being affected were 3-4%.

The fetus is not directly affected by the virus.  It is believed to be a result of the effect on the mother’s immune system.

Other tests performed in a 2004 study, reported that if an impregnated woman contracts the flu in the first half of her pregnancy, the chance of the fetus being affected by schizophrenia later is life is three times more likely.

The research, led by New York’s Columbia University, is published in Archives of General Psychiatry.  They believe that as many as 14% of those diagnosed with schizophrenia are related to the flu virus invading their mother’s while pregnant.

The study was performed using stored samples from 64 patients with schizophrenia, and 125 without.

The cause of the resulting condition is uncertain. One theory is that when the woman contracts the flu virus, the antibodies released by her immune system interact with the developing immune system of the fetus.  The increase in the mother’s body temperature may also contribute to the cause.

Another possible cause is over-the-counter flu medications which might affect the central nervous system.

The BBC contributed to this article, and offered one case of bi-polar disorder to understand its effects directly from the patient.

One patient, with only the name of “Michael”, described his experience with bi-polar disorder.

He said that as a teenager his mood swings were so severe that his general practitioner diagnosed him with ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

In 2007, the true name was put to his type of hyperactivity, he was bi-polar.

“I’m a very productive person. I have to keep busy and stimulated. People say I’m like a machine sometimes.”

Michael has had 30 or 40 jobs since he was 16. He currently combines three different part-time jobs and he writes poetry and tutors in English during his spare time.

He can experience weeks of low mood swings as well, but the extreme highs tend to dominate.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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