Babies born to parents with Schizophrenia face increased risk of infant mortality

Published 2008-10-01 00:00. Updated 2013-11-26 10:24

[PRESS RELEASE, 1 October 2008] Children born to a mother or father with schizophrenia are twice as likely to die within the first year of life, new research from Karolinska Institutet shows. The study, published in the October issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, examined 2 million births in Sweden that took place between 1983 and 2002, using data from a number of population-based registers.

Previous studies have shown that women with schizophrenia have an increased risk of negative pregnancy outcomes. However, little is known about the risks involved if the father has schizophrenia. The study found that babies with a mother or father with schizophrenia faced a doubled risk of infant mortality.

The researchers do not think there are genetic explanations for this increased risk. This was because the study also examined the risk of infant death if the parent had a sibling or a half-sibling with schizophrenia. A genetic factor would be indicated if the risk was significantly higher for full siblings compared with half siblings, but the risk was found not to be increased.

In addition, both mothers and fathers with schizophrenia were found to have an increased risk of having a baby with a low-birth weight, preterm delivery and small-for-gestational-age births. However, these increased risks were largely explained by the fact that children of parents with schizophrenia are often born into more adverse social environments. For example, women with schizophrenia are more likely to smoke, and are less likely to cohabit with their childs father. Both women and men with schizophrenia are also likely to be more socially disadvantaged and have a lower level of education

Based on the findings of this study, the researchers believe staff working in maternity and child care units need to be more aware of the risks involved following a pregnancy to parents with schizophrenia.


Nilsson E, Hultman CM, Cnattingius S, Otterblad Olausson P, Björk C och Lichtenstein P

Schizophrenia and offsprings risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes and infant death

British Journal of Psychiatry, 193: 311-315, October 2008

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