From ABC News By Sophie Scott
Scientists are investigating whether being exposed to viruses during pregnancy could increase the risk of children developing mental illnesses as they get older.
The issue is one of the hot topics at a meeting of the world's top neuroscientists, the 7th IBRO World Congress of Neuroscience, being held in Melbourne.
Getting rubella, also known as German measles, while pregnant can have devastating physical consequences for an unborn child.
New research suggests if pregnant women contract viruses such as influenza, it could have an impact on their offspring's mental development increasing the risk of schizophrenia and autism.
"Depending on when the brain might be affected in a bad way, with lack of oxygen or a virus or a bacterial infection, it's going to affect a particular stage of brain development," said University of Melbourne Professor Sandra Rees.
Scientists say it is not the virus doing the damage to the baby's developing brain but the mother's reaction to it.
They believe the mother's immune system starts a chain reaction which might lead to the baby's brain being affected.
Tango’s Take When is there going to start being good news for expectant mothers? Booze and cigarettes and violence and caffeine and too much weight gain are all out. And now pregnant mothers can’t get even get sick any more. Well if you get knocked up be sure to eat plenty of apples (they stave off Asthma), try aspirin (to alleviate blood flow problems) and use acupuncture and stretching (and not pain killers to ease discomfort). And keep clear of old people. They get sick. Maybe wearing a mask and carrying a can of Lysol isn’t a bad idea.