More evidence that your mom's illnesses can affect your mental health

You've probably heard before that people with schizophrenia are more likely to have been born in winter than other seasons — and that this weird fact could be linked to their mothers coming down with the flu, or suffering from Vitamin D deficiency. A new study has now found that people with bipolar disorder had a greater likelihood of being born to women who had had the flu while pregnant. It's a strange connection, and might just be correlation. So far, doctor's don't really understand why a virus-infected mama would lead to her child developing mental illness later in life.


  1. The more stories like this I read, the more I fume about cutbacks in health programs.

    A comprehensive pre-natal and early-childhood healthcare system, with monthly check-ups, free vitamins, food assistance, and education would be expensive, but if it results in kids who don’t end up mentally ill or developmentally disabled, that’s a huge savings down the road.

        1. It costs more to have a person in prison that it does to send them the Harvard! We have the most citizens in prison than any other industrialized nation in the world.

  2. Two of my cousins (twins) have significant mental health problems. My mother has experience working with disabled people and she always put my cousin’s problems down to a case of flu which their mother had during gestation. This would have been more than 40 years ago now, so I don’t think this is a new idea.

    1. I think the ‘new’ bit is the ‘study’ part. 

      By analogy, people have ‘known’ in the sense of having various flavors of disapprobation/taboo/unpleasant gossip, that certain sorts of mental health issues are hereditary for ages, and that marrying into that sort of family just isn’t such a good thing. Anything resembling genetic characterization, or even reasonably well controlled twin studies, is far more recent.

      1. Talk of not marrying for mental health reasons is stupid — how about adoption?

        1. Well, given that reliable decoupling of sex and procreation is pretty recent(even among people who want to do so, the technology just hasn’t been so hot for much of history), that has historically been a major strike against the ‘why not just adopt?’ strategy.

          And, of course, people who want biological children(or people whose choices are being made for them by families with dynastic enthusiasm) aren’t looking to adopt.

  3. This is all very interesting knowledge, and in the hands of reasonable people could be quite helpful. In the hands of unreasonable people this could lead to more severe policing of pregnant women, even criminal charges. Maggie should be aware of this given the misfortunes and difficult decisions she has shared on this site. She might not be so lucky again as we march toward the Republic of Gilead.

    Please understand that I am not making a threat here. Just warning about what some assholes with this knowledge might do if we aren’t careful.

    1. While I don’t doubt that moralists are gonna moralize, quite possibly by violent means, the trouble is that the dangerousness of data is not a falsification of it.(though ‘dangerousness’ can spice up an otherwise tepid dataset that turns out to be false: see, for instance, the ‘crack baby’ epidemic that, aside from some tearjerker shots of babies in detox, turns out to have almost entirely failed to pan out)

      You can only really fight the control freaks on “Being a control freak is unethical and a violation of your victims’ rights” grounds, not by attempting to deny them any data that might amount to a knob or lever that they would want control over. If you try to do it that way, you (A) Probably won’t succeed: even if no science gets done, pseudoscience and widely-believed-nonsense will step up to provide a substitute; and (B) Will deny yourself access to knobs and levers that people might want to twiddle for their own good.

    2. Considering a few of the more whacked out southern US states have attempted to criminalize miscarriages, I don’t think your concern is too misplaced.  

      1. My take on the whacked out south is that they are still suffering the effects of the civil war losses. For the south it was a CAUSE and all the best and brightest went with enthusiasm for the cause. The north felt differently — the rich could pay to get out of service, and the Irish immigrants coming at the time were handed a gun and uniform when they got off the boat with a promise of citizenship if they survived. So the north remained smart, and the south, having lost it best and brightest, remains dumb to this day.

        1. My impression is that education has never really been valued for anyone not born into money.  

        2. Losing the civil war certainly didn’t do the south any good; but the south had some serious inferiority problems even before the war(which probably contributed to their losing, if casualties are anything to go by, it certainly wasn’t superior northern leadership…) Agrarian authoritarian societies just don’t do that human capital formation terribly well…

    3. Like put them into camps like we did the Japanese in WWII — it CAN happen here, again.

  4. In New Zealand you can get a free flu vaccination when you’re pregnant (and in winter of course). This apparently also protects the baby for a few months after birth which is handy.

  5. It’s extremely difficult to say anything about such a finding of a correlation between these two. It might also turn out that these two are not at all causally related! 

  6. I Mean REALLY.  I am fed up with the 1950’s mentality of blaming mom for everything.   Half this world was raised by single moms and the other half by moms’ with “missing” husbands and vacant dads.  How about a real celebration of motherhood and stop blaming mom for the ills of the world – -most especially those caused by the actions or inactions of men.

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