Infections in pregnancy cause of mental disorders?

Infections in pregnancy cause of mental disorders?

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Infections in pregnancy and mental disorders in children

During pregnancy, the unborn child is affected by numerous factors. Mother stress, her diet and the mother's immune system could have lasting effects on child development, for example. In a current study it became clear how the risk of mental disorders in children increases significantly through infections during pregnancy.

"Mother health is very important for the brain development of the fetus during pregnancy," reports the University of Copenhagen. In previous studies, severe infections during pregnancy had been identified in humans and also in animals as a risk factor for the development of mental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders in the later life of the offspring. Now it has been possible for the first time to prove how infections in the mother can lead to the development of the stem and progenitor cells of neuronal cells in the brain being impaired.

Stem cells, progenitor cells and neuronal cells affected

The researchers examined the development of neurons in mice and their changes due to infection of the mother during pregnancy. They found effects "that ranged from stem cells and progenitor cells to neuronal cells and led to profound disorders in brain development," reports the University of Copenhagen. The study results were published in the specialist magazine "Molecular Medicine"

Indications of mental disorders

Infections during pregnancy affect brain development and, according to the researchers, can also lead to cognitive impairments. For example, the mice had shown that after infection during pregnancy, the newborn animals increasingly showed symptoms that were similar to those of human psychological disorders, including reduced prepulse inhibition, changed social interactions and cognitive impairments.

Differences depending on the time of infection

In their study, the researchers were also able to demonstrate that the infections have different effects at different times during pregnancy. "Depending on the time of infection, different progenitor cells and thus different neurons were affected," reports the research team. This means that the timing of the infection is very important and can lead to different results depending on which stage of brain development is affected.

Neural development is affected

The study shows for the first time how infections during pregnancy influence brain development and lead to cognitive impairments. "Since many factors are hypothetically important, it is important that we identify the steps in neuronal development that are actually affected," emphasizes Professor Konstantin Chodosewitsch from the University of Copenhagen. (fp)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters


  • University of Copenhagen: How are psychiatric disorders linked to infections during pregnancy? (published October 30, 2019),
  • Navneet A. Vasistha, Maria Pardo-Navarro, Janina Gasthaus, Dilys Weijers, Michaela K. Müller, Diego García-González, Susmita Malwade, Irina Korshunova, Ulrich Pfisterer, Jakob von Engelhardt, Karin S. Hougaard, Konstantin Khodosevich: Maternal inflammation has a profound effect on cortical internal neuron development in a stage and subtype-specific manner; in: Molecular Psychiatry (published 08.10.2019),

Video: Depression in Pregnancy - Mother Mental Health Toolkit (December 2022).