Women with schizophrenia are at increased risk for serious problems during pregnancy and childbirth, according to a new study.
Canadian researchers analysed data on births in the province of Ontario from 2002 to 2011 and found that pre-eclampsia, 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 labour and caesarean section, to be transferred to an intensive care unit, and to be readmitted to the hospital after discharge.
Low fertility rates
"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% of Americans have schizophrenia, according to the US 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 in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
Informed reproductive decisions
Compared to women without the mental illness, schizophrenic women were more likely to have diabetes (about 4% vs. 1%), chronic high blood pressure (almost 4% vs. 2%) and blood clots (about 2% vs. 0.5%) 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.
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