Could a Mom's Infection Lead to Epilepsy?

Cystitis in pregnant women and childhood epilepsy may be linked

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Could something as simple as a bladder infection put a child at risk for epilepsy? Past research has suggested a possible connection between a pregnant mother’s infection and her child’s risk of epilepsy and researchers are taking another look.

A recent study examines the risk of epilepsy in offspring of mothers with cystitis, commonly known as a bladder infection, during pregnancy. The study found that there may be a small increased risk when compared to no exposure to infection.

"Seek treatment for infections early- especially during pregnancy"

Jessica E. Miller, MPH, of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of California Los Angeles, and colleagues examined the records of all single live births in Denmark between January 1,1996 and September 25, 2004.

The final study sample included 447,629 people who lived more than 29 days and did not emigrate. Within the sample, 68,820 were also exposed in utero to cystitis medication.

These individuals in the study sample were followed from 29 days after birth until they were diagnosed with epilepsy, died, or until the study end date of December 31, 2005.

Information on maternal age, gestational age at birth, the number of previous births by the mother, whether the mother smoked, method of delivery, gender of the baby, the visible health of the child directly after birth, birth year, and socio-economic status was also collected.

Of all study participants, 2848 children had a diagnosis of epilepsy.

There was a slightly increased risk of epilepsy in those whose mothers were taking cystitis antibiotic treatment during pregnancy. Those whose mothers had multiple antibiotic prescriptions showed an even higher risk of epilepsy.

Whether the risk comes from exposure to the disease, medication or some other factor is unclear. It is suspected that it is from the infection itself because there is not a large variation in risk among the different types of antibiotics.

It is possible that the infection crosses the developing fetus’ blood-nervous system barriers and causes neurological disorders in later life.

Further research could examine the characteristics related to infection or how the infection is transferred from mother to fetus.

The article was published in August in Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 4, 2012
Last Updated:
October 8, 2012