Maternal infections during pregnancy and child cognitive outcomes

Janell Kwok, Hildigunnur Anna Hall, Aja Louise Murray, Michael V. Lombardo, Bonnie Auyeung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Maternal prenatal infections have been linked to children’s neurodevelopment and cognitive outcomes. It remains unclear, however, whether infections occurring during specific vulnerable gestational periods can affect children’s cognitive outcomes. The study aimed to examine maternal infections in each trimester of pregnancy and associations with children’s developmental and intelligence quotients. The ALSPAC birth cohort was used to investigate associations between maternal infections in pregnancy and child cognitive outcomes.

Infection data from mothers and cognition data from children were included with the final study sample size comprising 7,410 mother-child participants. Regression analysis was used to examine links between maternal infections occurring at each trimester of pregnancy and children’s cognition at 18 months, 4 years, and 8 years.

Infections in the third trimester were significantly associated with decreased verbal IQ at age 4 (p 
Results suggest that maternal infections in the third trimester could have a latent effect on cognitive development, only emerging when cognitive load increases over time, though magnitude of effect appears to be small. Performance IQ may be more vulnerable to trimester-specific exposure to maternal infection as compared to verbal IQ. Future research could include examining potential mediating mechanisms on childhood cognition, such as possible moderating effects of early childhood environmental factors, and if effects persist in future cognitive outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number848
JournalBMC pregnancy and childbirth
Early online date17 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • pregnancy
  • infections
  • cognition
  • child development


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