Smoking While Pregnant Can Increase Risk Of Schizophrenia In Children

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A link has been found between mothers who smoked during pregnancy and an increased risk for schizophrenia in their offspring, according to a new study conducted by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

Researchers combed through nearly 1,000 cases of schizophrenia among children born in Finland from 1983 to 1998. The data showed that maternal nicotine exposure increased the odds of schizophrenia by 38 percent.

"To our knowledge, this is the first biomarker-based study to show a relationship between fetal nicotine exposure and schizophrenia," said Alan Brown, MD, senior author of the study. "We employed a nationwide sample with the highest number of schizophrenia cases to date in a study of this type."

Dangers of maternal smoking

Researchers have long claimed that smoking while pregnant can lead to issues both in the womb and after birth, including low birth weight and difficulty paying attention. Additional neurodevelopmental abnormalities can occur due to nicotine consistently entering the fetal bloodstream, and previous studies have established a link between maternal smoking and childhood autism and bipolar disorder.

Researchers believe that increased awareness regarding the dangers of maternal smoking is critical to preventing psychiatric disorder in children.

"These findings underscore the value of ongoing public health education on the potentially debilitating, and largely preventable, consequences that smoking may have on children over time," said Brown. "Future studies on maternal smoking and other environmental, genetic, and epigenetic factors, as well as animal models, should allow identification of the biological mechanisms responsible for these associations.”

Source: EurekAlert!