Maternal infections are always known to be dangerous, affecting the baby’s development in various ways – even leading to abnormal fetal development.

But this issue have come into limelight recently again, due to the numerous Zika-affected mothers giving birth to babies with abnormally small head and brain.

The situation is even more worse it seems!! 

In this recent study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, found that the infection in mother during pregnancy has but significant effect on the fetus’ brain development.

The research found that the influence on the baby due to infections in the carrying mother were similar  to that of how the brain develops in cases such as autism spectrum disorders

This is not an entirely new discovery either. Infections in mothers during pregnancy being associated with an increased risk for psychiatric disorders, including autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia, has been known for some time now, from earlier population studies.

If a mother picks up an infection during pregnancy, naturally her immune system will kick into action to clear the infection. But it is this self-defense mechanism that actually prove to be harmful to the fetus. 

The immune response will in turn elicit signaling molecules that can have important effects on the baby’s brain cells and also the connections between the cells.

This particular development, caused due to the activation of the mother’s immunity system is a phenomenon known as 'maternal immune activation'. The researchers found that maternal immune activation alters the activity of multiple genes and pathways in the fetus's brain.

While the effects caused by maternal immune activation are transient, the researchers argue that they may be very potent during fetal development and may cause different characteristics in the individual depending on when it occurs during pregnancy.

Down’s syndrome, autism are only a few among the genetic birth disorders whose reasons are still to be found out. Anyway carrying mothers should be extra careful in getting infected, as it might be one of the reasons for a defect brain for your child.