Maternal Infections During Pregnancy Can Adversely Affect Offspring’s Cognitive Development

December 05, 2022

Third Trimester Infection-Exposed Children Exhibited Decreased Verbal & IQ Scores at Ages 4 and 8

Previous research has linked maternal infections during pregnancy to children’s deleterious neurodevelopmental and cognitive outcomes. However, these earlier studies did not determine whether infections that occur at specific gestational periods can affect these cognitive outcomes. Now, a new study has examined maternal infections during each trimester of pregnancy to assess these time-specific effects. To do this, the study’s authors collected infection data from mothers and cognition data from children from 7410 mother-child pairs. Children’s developmental and cognitive measures were collected using the Griffiths Mental Development Scales at 18 months, the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence at four years, and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children at eight years. A regression analysis investigated links between maternal infections occurring at each trimester of pregnancy and children’s cognition at the specified ages. After analyzing the data, the authors discovered that maternal infections during the third trimester were significantly associated with decreased verbal IQ at age four and lower verbal performance and total IQ scores at age 8. The authors concluded that maternal infections during the third trimester could have a latent effect on cognitive development. They believe these adverse effects appear as the child ages and the cognitive load increases. It is important to point out that the authors suggest that the magnitude of these effects seems small. Furthermore, they indicate that performance IQ may be more vulnerable to trimester-specific exposure to maternal infection than verbal IQ.

Original Study

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