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Canadian researchers analyzed data on births in the province of Ontario from 2002 to 2011 and found that preeclampsia, preterm birth and other serious pregnancy and delivery complications were twice as likely to occur in women with schizophrenia than in those without the mental health disorder.
Women with schizophrenia were more likely to develop placental abruption (in which placenta separates from the uterus) and septic shock, to undergo induced labor and cesarean section, to be transferred to an intensive care unit, and to be readmitted to the hospital after discharge.
"Traditionally, women with schizophrenia have had low fertility rates, and little attention was paid to their reproductive health," study author Dr. Simon Vigod, a psychiatrist at Women's College Hospital in Toronto, said in a hospital news release. "But recently, with fertility rates on the rise among these women, we must now turn our attention to ensuring their reproductive health and that of their babies."
About 1 percent of Americans have schizophrenia, according to the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. Symptoms usually start between ages 16 and 30.
The researchers examined records for new mothers between the ages of 15 and 49, and found the risk of dying within a year of giving birth was more than five times greater for women with schizophrenia. And babies born to mothers with schizophrenia tended to have abnormally high or low weights.
Women with schizophrenia also had more health problems before conceiving, according to the study, which was published Feb. 3 in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Compared to women without the mental illness, schizophrenic women were more likely to have diabetes (about 4 percent vs. 1 percent), chronic high blood pressure (almost 4 percent vs. 2 percent) and blood clots (about 2 percent vs. 0.5 percent) before their pregnancy.
"[These findings provide] the information and tools to begin to look at what interventions we can put in place to help reduce the risk of pregnancy and delivery complications for women with schizophrenia," said Vigod, who is also a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.
"That might include providing better education so these women can make informed reproductive decisions, and ensuring the best medical care possible before, during and after pregnancy," he said.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: Women's College Hospital, news release, Feb. 3, 2014