Smoking in Pregnancy Linked to Schizophrenia in Offspring

Smoking in Pregnancy Linked to Schizophrenia in OffspringSmoking in Pregnancy Linked to Schizophrenia in Offspring

Smoking during pregnancy is known to increase the risk of numerous health problems for offsprings. Now, researchers suggest it may also affect a child's mental health, increasing their risk of schizophrenia.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2011, around 10% of women in the United States reported smoking in the last trimester of pregnancy, despite the known health risks for mother and child. Expectant mothers who smoke are more likely to have a miscarriage and placental problems, and babies born to mothers who smoke are at greater risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, birth defects, such as cleft lip or cleft palate, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Increasingly, studies are suggesting that tobacco use in pregnancy may also pose risks for a child's mental health. One study published in 2013, for example, identified a link between smoking during pregnancy and increased risk of bipolar disorder in offspring, reported.

Now, a new study from the same team - including senior author Dr. Alan Brown of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University Medical Center suggests children born to mothers who smoke while pregnant may be more likely to develop schizophrenia.

Researchers recently published their findings in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

They analyzed national registry data of all live births that occurred in Finland from 1983-1998, identifying 977 cases of schizophrenia among offspring.

These schizophrenia cases were matched by sex, date of birth, and residence with children without schizophrenia.

The mothers provided blood samples which were analyzed for the presence of cotinine - a biomarker of nicotine, used to determine exposure to tobacco smoke. Researchers found that a higher level of cotinine in the blood samples of expectant mothers was associated with a greater risk of schizophrenia among offspring. Compared with offspring born to mothers who had low nicotine exposure during pregnancy, those born to mothers with heavy nicotine exposure during pregnancy were 38% more likely to develop schizophrenia, the team reports.

The authors said their study is the first to investigate the association between a biomarker of maternal smoking and risk of schizophrenia among offspring.  Brown says the results highlight the importance of educating the public on the potential health risks that smoking during pregnancy may have for a child's long-term health.