Expectant moms have always been concerned about contracting illnesses while pregnant. But now, with COVID-19, the risks have never been higher.
Since the pandemic began, numerous studies have shown that COVID-19 may pose significant health risks to both mom and baby while pregnant.
However, a new study conducted by Western University sought to understand the long-term effects of a pregnant woman’s immune response to viruses or bacteria on fetal brain development.
The study specifically analyzed how these early developmental changes might disrupt sensory processing abilities and potentially lead to neurodevelopmental disorders later in life.
Faraj Haddad, the study’s lead author and a former neuroscience researcher, explained how this research differs from past examinations.
“Even before the pandemic, previous studies found that developmental disruption caused by infection during pregnancy can increase the risk of a child later developing autism or schizophrenia,” he said.
“To examine this further, our study looked at a specific molecule called Interleukin-15 (IL-15) [the major immune cells in placenta] and its involvement in the maternal immune response’s effects on fetal brain development and behavior later in life,” Haddad continued.
The study was conducted using rodent models and found that the maternal immune response did, in fact, affect sensory processing and anxiety.
Moreover, the absence of IL-15 impacted the results– leading to either better or worse anxiety and sensory processing.