Image by DFID
A new “study” has come out, and believe me, I use the term very loosely. But since it’s being discussed in the mainstream media and may have some pregnant women worried, I thought we should discuss it.
This “study” shows that pregnant women who have the flu during pregnancy have twice the risk of having a child with an autism spectrum disorder as those who don’t have the flu. Of course, all the authorities are pushing women to get the flu vaccine to “protect” themselves from this fate. However, even the study authors have admitted the study’s (many) limitations. It has so many limitations that no protocol should be based upon it and no woman should worry about it. Let’s take a closer look….
Is the Flu Really Damaging Children?
The study authors assume that there is something in the natural infection — not the treatment, but the infection itself — that causes the increased risk of ASD. They have no basis for making such an assumption.
Pregnant women are often told that high temperatures are dangerous. That is why pregnant women are encouraged not to use saunas or hot tubs or even take very hot baths. They are also told to be very cautious about fevers, because fevers could cause brain damage.
I have found no compelling medical research to support this assertion.
There is some evidence that a high fever during weeks 4 – 6 of pregnancy may increase the risk of neural tube defects. However, the neural tube closes by the end of week 6, so after this point, this is no longer a risk. (And neither is B vitamin deficiency, which also plays a role in neural tube defects.) All other research into birth defects and increased body temperature is contradictory, not conclusive. It is probably better to avoid artificially raising your body temperature (via hot tubs, for example), but a brief and mild fever should not be cause for a concern.
That’s not what the researchers are blaming for this phenomenon, though. They don’t actually have any reasons why. They’ve suggested it might be something the flu virus itself, because colds, UTIs, and herpes infections in pregnancy showed no increase in ASD risk.
Maybe the way the study is being reported, it looks scary. But it’s not. There are several giant holes in it. Let’s discuss!
- Limited Sample/Location Size — There were about 97,000 children included in this study, all born in Denmark. That seems like a lot, but there are millions of children with ASD these days. Plus this study took place only in Denmark, so it’s impossible to say if that generalizes to the rest of the population.
- Reporting Bias — The study was conducted by asking women if they had the flu or not during pregnancy and if their child was on the spectrum. The children were born between 1997 and 2003. Parents may not remember exactly if they had the flu during pregnancy. They also cannot say for sure if what they had (if ill) was actually the flu and not some other infection. The women were never tested, so we don’t know how many may have had the flu and thought it was something else, or as a sub-clinical infection (no symptoms) and then not had a child with ASD. For this reason alone it is impossible to actually link the flu with ASD.
- Lack of Medical Records — Women’s medical records were never checked, so researchers don’t know if they were actually ill and if so, what they had. There was no medical follow-up to ensure accuracy.
- Possible Drug Issues — It was not noted how the women chose to treat their illnesses at home, what drugs they chose to use, if any. This, too, may not be recalled accurately. It is possible that the drugs involved in treatment could have played a larger role in the ASD link, if one exists, than the illness itself. Doctors never look for the “biological norm” which they always should.
- No Control Group — This was a study based on self-reporting. To more accurately determine a link, pregnant women would have to be assigned to two groups: medication use, and no medication use. Then, if the group were large enough, a fair number would happen to catch the flu during pregnancy. Those in the control group would use no OTC medication; those in the experimental group would use standard protocols. Then, researchers could look at ASD rates in three groups: did not get flu; did get flu/drugs; did get flu/no drugs to see if there was a difference. Flu cases would have to be confirmed by a lab and women’s drug use (if any) would have to be carefully monitored. This is not what happened.
- Additional Health Factors — No additional health factors were examined. Were the women who were more likely to get sick also more likely to be vitamin D deficient (a known risk factor for ASD)? Were they more likely to be deficient in glutathione (another risk factor)? Were they more likely to have disturbed/poor gut flora (yet another risk factor)? Researchers theorized if drug use wasn’t involved that women may have simply been “sicker” but did not examine why that might have been.
When it comes right down to it, the entire study is useless. There is a potential link between flu and ASD but there are too many variables and unanswered questions to actually draw any conclusions or make any decisions based upon it.
Then Why Write It?
Researchers are constantly looking for the cause of autism, but mostly in the wrong places. They want to look at genetic and uncontrollable factors. They do not want to honestly examine the role that modern technology could play. Anything that is not a biological norm needs to be cautiously used and thoroughly examined, rather than assumed to be innocent and beneficial.
The real reason they reported this study, however, was to try to scare women into getting a flu shot.
There is no way to draw the conclusion that the flu is actually in any way dangerous to pregnant women (something I’m sure they’ve been wanting to show for years now). There is no way to draw the conclusion that the flu shot actually protects against the flu. There is no way to draw the conclusion that the flu shot is actually safe for pregnant women or their babies. Yet they recommend it anyway, because that is what “they” do, and have done for five years or so now.
These shoddily-done studies and extensive conclusions are irresponsible science.
How to Protect Yourself
The bottom line is, we don’t know if the flu, or any aspect of flu treatment, is actually linked to ASD or not. We do know getting the flu during pregnancy (or any other time) is no fun.
Instead of getting a flu shot, try this:
- Take fermented cod liver oil
- Consume bone broth regularly
- Consume fermented foods regularly
- Avoid/limit sugar
- Get plenty of rest
These are all beneficial in pregnancy as well as in helping to ward off illness. They are very safe! If you do get sick, all of the above plus ginger tea are excellent. I have used ginger tea for colds and it knocks out a sore throat, at least temporarily. It’s also safe for all ages.