Researchers: Smoking during pregnancy promotes schizophrenia in the child

Researchers: Smoking during pregnancy promotes schizophrenia in the child

Nicotine exposure before childbirth affects children's mental health
Most women are aware that smoking during pregnancy can lead to risks for the unborn child. Nevertheless, according to experts, 12 to 25 percent of women in Europe and the USA also smoke during pregnancy. In a recent study, a team of researchers led by Professor Alan Brown from Columbia University Medical Center in New York demonstrated that this also jeopardizes the mental health of young people. The children developed schizophrenia significantly later in life if their mothers had smoked during pregnancy.

In the current study, the scientists examined the relationship between prenatal nicotine exposure and schizophrenia in the offspring. They found that the high nicotine consumption of pregnant women increases the risk of later schizophrenia in children by up to 38 percent. Smoking pregnant women are a major threat to the mental health of their children. The results of the study were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Prenatal nicotine exposure checked
For their investigations, the researchers used the data from a Finnish population-based study, which collected all essential data from live births in Finland between 1983 and 1998. 977 cases of offspring schizophrenia were identified here. Using the mother's serum samples, which were also available, the researchers examined possible correlations between the risk of schizophrenia and nicotine exposure (measured by the level of cotinine in the serum).

Schizophrenia risk increased by 38 percent
The scientists were able to demonstrate that an increased maternal cotinine level was associated with an increased rate of schizophrenia. "Severe maternal nicotine exposure has been linked to a 38 percent increase in the rate of schizophrenia," write Prof. Brown and colleagues. This finding was independent of the mother's age, maternal or parental mental disorders, socioeconomic status and other variables.

Refraining from smoking could reduce the incidence of schizophrenia
The current study provides, according to the researchers, "the definitive evidence that smoking during pregnancy is associated with schizophrenia." Conversely, the results suggest that cessation of smoking by all women during pregnancy could significantly reduce the incidence of schizophrenia. In any case, women should be aware of the risk that cigarettes pose to their unborn children during pregnancy. (fp)

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