Mothers who smoke during pregnancy increase the chances of their children developing schizophrenia, according to new research.
A team from Columbia University found that heavy nicotine exposure in the blood increases the likelihood of the condition by 38 per cent.
“To our knowledge, this is the first biomarker-based study to show a relationship between fetal nicotine exposure and schizophrenia,” says study author Alan Brown. “We employed a nationwide sample with the highest number of schizophrenia cases to date in a study of this type.”
Nicotine readily crosses the placenta into the fetal bloodstream, targeting brain development. That leads to short and long-term changes in cognition.
“These findings underscore the value of ongoing public health education on the potentially debilitating, and largely preventable, consequences that smoking may have on children over time,” says Professor Brown.
Previous studies had already indicated that smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of bipolar disorder.