What are the consequences of increased inflammation during pregnancy?
Inflammation levels can be increased during pregnancy due to various causes such as infections or stress. The effects of this on the unborn child were examined in a joint study by the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the University of California Irvine. Accordingly, there is a risk of changes in the children's brains, which are also associated with an increased risk of psychiatric illnesses.
In their current study, the scientists were able to demonstrate “that changes in the brain of the unborn child can occur due to increased inflammation values during pregnancy”, which “in turn can increase the risk of developing psychiatric disorders,” reports the Berlin Charité. In particular, a limited impulse control could be determined if the maternal inflammation values were increased during pregnancy. The researchers have published their study results in the journal "Biological Psychiatry".
90 pregnant women and their children examined
Increased levels of inflammation in pregnancy are often the result of an infection, but according to the scientists, they can also occur in other situations, such as being overweight or suffering from psychological stress. The research team led by Prof. Dr. Claudia Buß from the Berlin Charité has now examined the effects of an increase in inflammation parameters using 90 pregnant women and their children. For this purpose, the women and their unborn children were examined in every trimester of pregnancy (i.e. three times in total). "In addition to ultrasound diagnostics and the evaluation of biological samples, any medical complications have been recorded, as has the psychological well-being of the expectant mother," reports the Charité.
Changes in the amygdala
In the children, the brain was examined using magnetic resonance imaging during the first month after birth during natural sleep. At the age of 24 months, the children's impulse control was determined using playful exercises, the scientists report. The investigations made it clear that increased interleukin-6 concentrations not only result in neonatal changes in the amygdala, but also that these changes "were associated with less ability to control the impulses of the respective children at the age of two," emphasizes Prof Repent. With increased inflammation levels, the children would have shown an enlarged amygdala region in the brain, which region plays an important role in emotional assessments and recognition of situations. The networking of the amygdala with other brain regions was also changed in the children.
Increased risk of psychiatric illnesses
The head of the study, Prof. Buß, concludes from the current results "that there is a connection between increased maternal inflammation values and an increased risk of psychiatric illnesses, which are accompanied by a lack of impulse control." It has already been known from model experiments on animals that infections and inflammations in pregnant animals are possible Changes in the brain development of their offspring and lead to changes in behavior, according to the Charité. Epidemiological studies would also support the current study results. Factors such as infections, stress and obesity that lead to increased interleukin-6 concentrations during pregnancy can therefore increase the risk of psychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia and autism.
Conversely, lowering the inflammatory values would have positive effects on the brain and impulse control of the offspring, which speaks in favor of changing the factors that can be influenced as positively as possible, namely stress and obesity. With relaxation exercises, for example, stress can be reduced and an adequate diet prevents the build-up of excess weight in pregnancy. (fp)