November 24, 2008 / 10:59 PM / 11 years ago

Maternal mental illness tied to perinatal deaths

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Perinatal mortality risk is increased in mothers with psychiatric disorders, and in their offspring as well, UK and Danish researchers report in an advance online publication by the Archives of Disease in Childhood—Fetal and Neonatal Edition.

As senior investigator Dr. Kathryn M. Abel told Reuters Health, “A history of serious psychiatric illness in women has been linked to a significantly increased risk of stillbirth and neonatal death in their offspring, compared to those with no such history.”

“However,” she added, “those with schizophrenia are at no greater risk than other mothers with mental illness requiring hospitalization.”

Abel of the University of Manchester and colleagues came to this conclusion after studying Danish national data on 1.45 million live births and 7021 stillbirths that occurred over a period of 15 years.

Among the still births, “188 were exposed to a history of any maternal psychiatric admissions before birth.”

Among 6646 neonatal deaths, 201 were in offspring of mothers who had previously been hospitalized for a psychiatric illness, including schizophrenia, affective disorders and drug and alcohol related disorders.

The risk of perinatal death from nearly all causes was increased for all categories of maternal psychiatric disorders. Mothers with schizophrenia had a similar risk as those with other psychiatric disorders.

In addition, there was about a twofold higher risk of fatal congenital malformation associated with a history of maternal affective disorder or schizophrenia and related disorders than with maternal drug alcohol and drug-related disorders.

“Women with serious mental illness are often remote from mainstream society, experience a great deal of social isolation and deprivation and are either unable, or unwilling to access established community resources,” Abel commented.

“If we don’t identify at-risk women early and provide adequate supports at the start to mentally ill parents, the long-term cost is going to be much greater for them, their children and ultimately society as a whole,” she concluded.

SOURCE: Archives of Disease in Childhood—Fetal and Neonatal Edition.

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