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Smoking and pregnancy boosts chances of psychotic child

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Results of a new study shows that mothers who smoke during pregnancy could be putting their children at risk for the development of psychosis. Researchers examined the link between smoking during pregnancy and risk of psychosis in children by performing a study of 6,356 12-year-olds from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.

More than eleven percent of the children had symptoms of psychosis that included hallucinations or delusions.

The results revealed an increased risk of psychosis among children whose mothers smoked the most tobacco during pregnancy. Researchers also investigated the effects of alcohol and cannabis use during pregnancy.

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Cannabis use by pregnant women did not show the same effects as tobacco. Mothers, who drank alcohol early in pregnancy, and more than 21 drinks per week, were also found to put their children at risk for psychosis.

The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, was led by Dr Stanley Zammit, a psychiatrist at Cardiff University's School of Medicine. Zammit says, “In our cohort, approximately 19 per cent of adolescents who were interviewed had mothers who smoked during pregnancy. If our results are non-biased and reflect a causal relationship, we can estimate that about 20 per cent of adolescents in this cohort would not have developed psychotic symptoms if their mothers had not smoked. Therefore, maternal smoking may be an important risk factor in the development of psychotic experiences in the population."

The researchers suggest more studies to understand why smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of psychosis in children. The authors speculate that tobacco exposure in the womb somehow affects impulsivity and cognition during fetal development. The reasons are as yet unclear as to why tobacco smoking during pregnancy is associated with psychosis in children.

Source: BJ Psych