Which perinatal factors may increase the risk of developing schizophrenia?

Updated: Mar 16, 2018
  • Author: Frances R Frankenburg, MD; Chief Editor: Glen L Xiong, MD  more...
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Women who are malnourished or who have certain viral illnesses during their pregnancy may be at greater risk of giving birth to children who later develop schizophrenia. [47] For example, children born to Dutch mothers who were malnourished during World War II have a high rate of schizophrenia.

After the 1957 influenza A2 epidemics in Japan, England, and Scandinavia, rates of schizophrenia were higher among offspring of women who contracted influenza during their second trimester. Women in California who were pregnant between 1959 and 1966 were more likely to have a child who developed schizophrenia if they had influenza in the first trimester of their pregnancy. [48]

Obstetric complications may be associated with a higher incidence of schizophrenia. Children born in the winter months may be at greater risk for developing schizophrenia. [49]

A study of Finnish women supported an interaction between genetic and environmental influences on causation of schizophrenia. [50] In this study, a review of 9596 women in Helsinki who received hospital treatment during pregnancy for an upper urinary tract infection between 1947 and 1990 found no overall significant increase in the risk of schizophrenia among their offspring but a 5-fold higher risk among the offspring of women who also had a family history of psychosis. The authors estimated that among offspring of women with both prenatal pyelonephritis and a positive family history of psychotic disorders, 38-46% of schizophrenia cases resulted from the synergistic action of the 2 risk factors. [50]

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