Study IDs Psychosis Risk Factors During and After Pregnancy
U.K. researchers have discovered several pregnancy-related risk factors linked to the development of psychotic disorders in offspring.
These prenatal and perinatal risks, including the age of the parents, nutritional deficiencies and low birth weight, appear to have a significant effect on the likelihood of a child developing psychosis.
Psychotic disorders are severe mental illnesses which result in abnormal thinking patterns such as hallucinations or delusions, but they can affect each person in different ways. In 2014, a survey found the 6% of people in England said they had experienced at least one symptom of psychosis.
As a result, researchers suggest women at risk should be screened early on in their pregnancy so they can be given additional support.
The findings are published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.
A research team, led by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) at King’s College London, conducted the first comprehensive meta-analysis of prenatal (during pregnancy) and perinatal (the days just before and after delivery) risk factors for psychosis in nearly 20 years.
The research team looked at data from 152 studies published between 1977 and July 2019 in order to analyze 98 factors. Of these, the researchers identified 30 significant risk factors and five protective factors.
According to the study, these factors can be split into four categories: parental and familial, pregnancy, labor and delivery, and fetal growth and development. Significant protective factors were mothers being between the ages of 20 – 29, first time mothers and higher birth weights in babies.
For risk factors, previous mental health conditions in either parents, nutritional deficiencies, low birthweight and giving birth in the colder months were found to increase the probability of a child developing psychosis.
Age-related risk factors were either parent being under 20, mothers between 30-34 and fathers over 35. Researchers also found that a lack of prenatal care visits poses a risk and marked this as a potential risk factor to combat with outreach campaigns.
The new findings confirm the importance of factors during labor and delivery, such as the fetal brain being deprived of oxygen and ruptured membranes, which are historically among the most consistently implicated risk factors.
Conversely, despite previous studies focusing on infections during pregnancy causing psychosis, this study found significant associations only for herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) and maternal infections ‘not otherwise specified’ and found that influenza had no indication of a significant effect.
The new research will help guide future studies in the field of psychosis, as well as form the basis for psychosis risk prediction models which could advance preventative strategies.
“This study is confirming that psychotic disorders originate in the early phases of life with the accumulation of several environmental risk factors during the perinatal and prenatal phases,” said Dr. Paolo Fusar-Poli, Reader in Psychiatry and Youth Mental Health at Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London.
“The results of this study will advance our ability to detect individuals at risk of developing psychosis, predict their outcomes and eventually offer them preventive care.”
While this study focused on the environmental factors there may also be genetic or epigenetic risks factors that are implicated in the onset of psychosis.
Pedersen, T. (2020). Study IDs Psychosis Risk Factors During and After Pregnancy. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2020/03/27/study-ids-psychosis-risk-factors-during-and-after-pregnancy/155231.html