Maternal fever during pregnancy and offspring attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Maternal fever during pregnancy is associated with several adverse child outcomes. We investigated associations between maternal fever and ADHD among offspring, as well as the sub-dimensions of ADHD - inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity. Data came from the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort Study, including more than 114,000 children. Information about children’s ADHD diagnoses was obtained from the Norwegian Patient Register. Mothers reported on inattention and hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms in questionnaires at 8 years. Logistic regression analysis showed that children exposed to maternal fever in the first trimester received an ADHD diagnosis more often than unexposed children (Odds Ratio (OR) = 1.31, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.06–1.61). For children exposed twice or more in the first trimester, the OR was 2.64 (CI = 1.36–5.14). Linear regression analysis showed elevated inattention symptoms among children exposed to fever in the first (Cohen’s d = 0.09, CI = 0.03–0.15) and second (Cohen’s d = 0.05, CI = 0.01–0.09) trimester. Results were similar whether the mother had taken acetaminophen for their fever or not. Hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms were not related to maternal fever. The results indicate that maternal fever in early pregnancy may be a risk factor for ADHD, and particularly for inattention problems. This risk is neither mitigated nor inflated by use of acetaminophen.