Prenatal Maternal Infections and Children's Neurodevelopment in the UK Millennium Cohort Study: A Focus on ASD and ADHD

J Atten Disord. 2022 Feb;26(4):616-628. doi: 10.1177/10870547211015422. Epub 2021 May 19.


Objective: No clear answer has yet been attained as to the influence of prenatal exposure to infection on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), either alone or as co-occurring issues. The current study examined links between hospital-recorded and maternal-reported prenatal infections and ASD, ADHD, and co-occurring ASD and ADHD.

Methods: Participants were n = 15,462 children and mother pairs from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), a population-representative UK sample.

Results: Findings show associations between maternal-reported infections and ASD, and some evidence of links with ADHD and co-occurring ASD and ADHD. Hospital-recorded infections were not found to be associated with ASD, ADHD, or their co-occurrence. Agreement between hospital-recorded and maternal-reported infections was low, which may explain the discrepant findings.

Conclusion: Prenatal maternal infections may be associated with increased odds of ASD and ADHD. Findings point to the importance of drawing on multiple sources of information when ascertaining prenatal infection status.

Keywords: attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder; autism spectrum disorders; pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / complications
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity* / epidemiology
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / complications
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder* / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology