Distress during pregnancy raises risk of schizophrenia genes, study finds


Scientists have discovered another crucial reason to ensure that moms have a healthy pregnancy and it's tied to the heightened risks of developing schizophrenia genes in the fetus.

Pregnancy distress or complications not only trigger health problems like high blood pressure in mothers. Apparently, they also affect the placenta's health by signalling to the body to turn on the genes tied to schizophrenia, according to the findings published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Schizophrenia is a severe type of mental disorder that impacts a person's thought process, behavior and feelings. Schizophrenic people have a different view of the reality around them and the symptoms can begin manifesting in their teens.

Previous studies have shown that schizophrenia development is at least 60 to 70 percent based on the genes. But how these genes are activated can depend on the health of the mother's pregnancy.

Experts from the Lieber Institute for Brain Development in Maryland dug deeper to find the links. Researchers looked into the data of 2,800 adults from different parts of the world who were diagnosed with schizophrenia.

From this data, 20 percent were revealed to have mothers with pregnancy complications raging from high blood pressure, preeclampsia, emergency C-section and poor fetal growth. Researchers also learned that those with high genetic risks, coupled with the pregnancy complications, increased their schizophrenia genes risk five times more.

The study also showed that the more that mothers experienced pregnancy distress, the more the organ turned on those genes.

The placenta is central to fetus development as the organ provides the nutrients like food and oxygen, and cleans up waste in the mother's blood. When under duress, the placenta presents symptoms like inflammation.

"For the first time, we have found an explanation for the connection between early life complications, genetic risk, and their impact on mental illness and it all converges on the placenta," study author Dr. Daniel Weinberger said.

This article was originally published in Christian Today and is re-published here with permission