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Is Schizophrenia Passed on From Mother to Newborn?

Posted Aug 25 2008 3:17pm
When I was carrying my daughter Samantha, it was, as the saying goes, "the best of times and the worst of times."

While excitedly anticipating the birth of my first child and enjoying all the first-time experiences that come with carrying a new life, I was also dealing with an in-progress divorce that grew nastier and more bitter with each passing day. I often wondered if the baby could sense the stress I was under, and my obstetrician warned me on more than one occasion that the stress was not good for my pregnancy. I would often sense connections between negative events that were taking place around me, and the baby's character and degree of activity.

Now, according to a study conducted by a team of British and Danish researchers, severe emotional stress in the mother, experienced during the first trimester of pregnancy, may increase the risk of the child developing schizophrenia in later life.

The study, appearing in this week's Archives of General Psychiatry examines the impact of maternal stress — of the extreme variety — on the central nervous system/mental health of the unborn. The research suggests a causal link between extreme stress in the mother, to an increased risk of schizophrenia.

A link between maternal stress and its impact on fetal development was analyzed in a study appearing in the Lancet in 2000, which suggested a relationship between extreme emotional stress in the mother, experienced during the first trimester of pregnancy, and an increased risk of congenital brain malformations that could lead to permanent impairment in the neurodevelopment of the unborn child.

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