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Critically Speaking

Jul 29, 2020

Evidence is emerging that inflammation during pregnancy is associated with a higher risk for disorders such as autism and schizophrenia in the developing fetus, disorders that sometimes appear much later in the individual's life. Dr. Hanna Stevens, Child Psychiatrist, Division Director of Child Psychiatry and Head of the Psychiatry and Early Neurobiological Development Lab (PENDL) at the Carver College of Medicine University of Iowa, discusses the relationship between material inflammation and later psychiatric outcomes.  


  • There’s evidence that preeclampsia increases the risk of autism in offspring by about 50% more than it would be otherwise. 
  • Microglial cells found in the fetal brain act as immune cells, but when chemical signals of inflammation are present, the cells behave differently and may impact brain development.  
  • It is essential to receive prenatal care, and if you are experiencing problems linked to maternal inflammation, such as contagious diseases or preeclampsia, seek medical attention. 


"The reason for looking at this research and studying these processes is not to suggest individual women are supposed to figure out how to solve the problem.  It is at a much higher level of figuring out how, as a society, we protect healthy brain development.." —  Hanna Stevens 


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