Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of schizophrenia in newborns

Prenatal nicotine exposure increases the risk of schizophrenia in children
It has long been known that mothers who smoke during pregnancy damage the health of their unborn child. Researchers have now found that children of mothers who smoke during pregnancy are more likely to develop mental disorders later in life. Affected children have an increased risk of developing schizophrenia by up to 38 percent.

Smoking during pregnancy harms the baby. Scientists from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), and the New York State Psychiatric Institute, in collaboration with Finnish researchers, have now found that maternal nicotine levels in the blood can be increased by up to 38 percent increased likelihood of schizophrenia in the offspring was linked. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "The American Journal of Psychiatry".

Researchers find cotinine biomarkers in children of smoking mothers
Using data from a large Finnish national birth cohort of pregnant women, the research team analyzed nearly 1,000 cases of schizophrenia. In addition, controls of the Finnish children were found to have increased concentrations of the biomarker cotinine. All of the children examined were born between 1983 and 1998, the experts explain. Cotinine is a breakdown product of nicotine and can also be found in passive smokers in the blood and urine as an N-glucuronide conjugate. The results of the new study also took into account factors such as the psychiatric history of the parents, the age of the mother and the socio-economic status, the doctors explain.

Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of long-term changes in perception
This is the first biomarker-based study to show a link between fetal nicotine exposure and schizophrenia, explains author Alan Brown of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Nicotine crosses the placenta in the fetal bloodstream and specifically targets the fetal development of the brain. This process can lead to long-term changes in perception and may also contribute to other developmental disorders, the professor adds. Long-term changes in the cognition and development of nerve abnormalities can then result.

Schizophrenia is certainly not the only problem that can be triggered by smoking during pregnancy. Smoking during pregnancy can also contribute to lower birth weight and various attention problems, the scientists say. In addition, in a previous study, Professor Brown and his colleagues found that there was a link between smoking during pregnancy and an increased risk of bipolar disorder.

Triggering biological factors are to be determined through further research
The current results clearly show the potentially debilitating effects of smoking during pregnancy, say the experts. These effects of smoking on our children are all largely avoidable, explains Professor Brown. Future studies on maternal smoking and other genetic and epigenetic factors should, in his view, enable the responsible biological mechanisms to be identified. It is also of interest to consider maternal nicotine exposure in relation to other psychiatric disorders such as autism, the author adds. (as)

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Video: Smoking and Pregnancy: Womb to Breathe (January 2022).