Maternal Cold or Flu with Fever During Pregnancy May Be Linked to Birth Defects

Pregnant woman with a cold

A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that women who had a cold or flu with fever just before or during early pregnancy may be more likely to have a baby born with a birth defect.

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Main Findings

  • Women who had a cold or flu without fever did not appear to have an increased chance of having a baby born with a birth defect.
  • Women who are planning a pregnancy should consider taking steps to protect themselves from fever and infection during early pregnancy to help prevent birth defects.

About the Study

Researchers used data from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study (NBDPS), one of the largest U.S. studies aimed at understanding factors that increase the risk for major birth defects.

About Birth Defects

Birth defects are common, costly, and critical conditions that affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year. Birth defects are structural changes present at birth that can affect almost any part or parts of the body (such as the heart, brain, face, arms, and legs). They may affect how the body looks, works, or both.

Our Work

CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) saves babies by preventing birth defects. NCBDDD identifies causes of birth defects, finds opportunities to prevent them, and improves the health of those living with birth defects. Learn how NCBDDD makes a difference by visiting

More Information

Key Findings Reference

Waller DK, Hashmi SS, Hoyt AT, Duong HT, Tinker SC, Gallaway MS, Olney RS, Finnell RH, Hecht JT, Canfield MA. Maternal report of fever from cold or flu during early pregnancy and the risk for noncardiac birth defects, National Birth Defects Prevention Study, 1997–2011. Birth Defects Research. 2017 Nov 2.