November 11, 2008
10/11/2008 – 07:20:55
Women with a history of serious mental illness are more likely to have babies that are stillborn or die within the first month of life, according to research published today.
The study, from the University of Manchester and Aarhus University in Denmark, found that the risk of stillbirth for women with schizophrenia was twice as high than for healthy mothers, while women with ’affective’ disorders such as bipolar disorder were more than twice as likely to give birth to stillborn babies.
Women with other psychotic illnesses, including mood-affective disorders, manic depression and drug and alcohol addiction, were also shown to have a greater risk of stillborn and newborn deaths.
According to the report, the higher risk of perinatal loss could be partly attributed to “factors associated with maternal psychiatric illness in general, such as insufficient attendance for antenatal care and unhealthy lifestyles, rather than the maternal mental illness itself”.
The researchers studied almost 1.5 million live births and 7,021 stillbirths in Denmark between 1973 and 1998.
Of mothers who had experienced stillbirths, 188 had a history of psychiatric admission before birth.
Of the 6,646 neonatal deaths, 201 were the babies of mothers who were previously admitted for psychiatric illness.
The risk of stillbirth due to complications during delivery among women with drug and alcohol problems was also found to be more than double that of healthy women.
Dr Kathryn Abel from the University of Manchester said: “We found that the chances of stillborn or newborn death from all causes were greater for babies whose mothers had a serious mental health illness.”
She added: “The fact that the link between the cause of death and the illness of the mother varies suggests that factors other than the mental disorder itself are involved.
“Lifestyle, such as smoking and poor diet, and less antenatal care and poverty can also increase the chances of complication during childbirth.
“These findings suggest that further resources are needed to support these vulnerable women and their children.”