Fever during early pregnancy may lead to facial and heart birth defects

fever during early pregnancy may lead to facial and heart birth defects

In the earlier researches, it was found that in the first trimester of the pregnancy, there is a risk of heart diseases and facial deformities, such as palate and cleft lip. How this happens is still a topic of debate; whether a virus, other kind of infection or the fever itself is the underlying cause.

Researchers from Duke University have finally found that fever is not the root cause for these deformities and heat diseases during pregnancy as they demonstrated it on an animal embryo.

Senior study author, Eric Benner, a neonatologist and assistant professor of pediatrics at Duke University said that according to the research, a portion of birth defects could be prevented by lowering the fever of the mother with acetaminophen during the first trimester of the pregnancy.

“My hope is that right now, as women are planning to become pregnant and their doctors advise them to start taking prenatal vitamins and folic acid, their doctor also informs them if they get a fever, they should not hesitate to call and consider taking a fever reducer, specifically acetaminophen (Tylenol), which has been studied extensively and determined to be safe during the first trimester,” Benner said. He further added, “While doctors advise most women to avoid any drug during pregnancy, there may be benefits to taking acetaminophen to reduce fever. Women should discuss all risks and benefits with their doctors.”


He also said that the type of defect depends on whether the fever occurs during the time of the development of heart or face and head. The researchers still do not know that how the duration of the fever impacts the embryo development.

Benner cautions that use of non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen also lower down the fever, but some NSAIDs are not safe for the later months of the pregnancy. Researchers are still debating that whether the use of acetaminophen is safe during pregnancy to manage other ongoing conditions such as arthritis. However, Benner said that we could use this for acute fever as it is considered safe.

“I hope moving forward, we can educate more women about fever as a risk factor for birth defects and let them know they shouldn’t just tough it out if they develop a fever,” said Benner. He suggested, “They should ask their doctor before getting pregnant whether they may benefit from taking a fever-reducer such as acetaminophen in the event they develop a fever.”