Expectant mothers who smoke during pregnancy increase the risk of their baby developing schizophrenia in later life, a study has revealed.
Data on 1,000 schizophrenia patients were examined for the study. Scientists matched their birth and health records with those of non-affected ‘control’ individuals.
Smoking habits were assessed by looking at the levels of nicotine marker, cotinine, in their blood.
The results showed that a fifth of mums of schizophrenia patients smoked heavily during pregnancy, compared to 14.7% of mothers of controls.
Smoking during pregnancy can harm your unborn baby as it can reduce oxygen supply to the foetus, which causes their heart to beat harder. This increases the risk of premature birth, low birth weight and stillbirth.
Senior researcher Professor Alan Brown, from the University of Columbia, New York, said: ‘To our knowledge, this is the first biomarker-based study to show a relationship between foetal nicotine exposure and schizophrenia.
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.
Further studies could shed light on exactly how nicotine affects a foetus’ brain.
Finally, it is of interest to examine maternal cotinine in relation to bipolar disorder, autism, and other psychiatric disorders.’
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