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Fever Birth Defects

October 27, 2017

Controlling fevers during early pregnancy may decrease the likelihood of congenital birth defects.



How fevers can lead to birth defects. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Pregnant women who get fevers early in pregnancy are more likely to have babies with congenital heart defects or cleft palates. But is the problem caused by the fever itself? Or the germs that cause the fever? To find out, Duke University researcher Eric Benner and his colleagues studied chick and zebrafish embryos. They report in the journal Science Signaling that fever alone is enough to damage neural crest cells that go on to form heart and skull tissue.

ERIC BENNER (Duke University Medical Center):

So women who are trying to become pregnant who have fevers can take a substance like acetaminophen and potentially reduce the fever and thereby reduce their chances of having a child with a birth defect.


Of course, check with your doctor before starting any sort of drug therapy, especially during pregnancy. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Bob Hirshon