Maternal hyperthermia as a possible cause of anencephaly

Lancet. 1978 Mar 11;1(8063):519-21. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(78)90549-4.


Mothers of anencephalic infants were asked about febrile illness and sauna bathing during their pregnancies. In 7 of 63 affected pregnancies (11%), a history of maternal hyperthermia near the presumed time of anterior neural-groove closure was given. 5 had fever with a maximum recorded temperature ranging from 38.9 to 40.0 degrees C, each case being secondary to a different type of illness. The other 2 had possible hyperthermia episodes as a consequence of sauna bathing, with no infectious agent involved. The frequencies of hyperthermia at the same period of gestation in two control groups were 0% and 0.1%. This excess frequency of maternal hyperthermia at the period of anterior neural-groove closure, and the differing natures of its causes, imply that hyperthermia itself may be an aetiological factor in anencephaly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anencephaly / epidemiology
  • Anencephaly / etiology*
  • Female
  • Fever / complications*
  • Hot Temperature / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / complications*
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Seasons
  • Steam Bath*
  • Teratogens
  • Washington


  • Teratogens