A new study has discovered an association between a mother’s smoking and an increased risk of her child developing schizophrenia.

New evidence found that prenatal nicotine exposure is associated with an increase in a child’s risk for developing schizophrenia later in life.

In a study published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), and New York State Psychiatric Institute and their colleagues in Finland looked at 1,000 people with the disease in Finland to determine the association.

Participants were selected from the large group of pregnant women who were part of the Finnish Prenatal Study of Schizophrenia and matched them with their children who were part of the Finnish Maternity Cohort, which collected over 1 million prenatal blood serum samples between 1983 and 1998, according to Science Daily.

The study found a strong association between high maternal nicotine levels in the mum’s blood and an increased risk of schizophrenia among their children; in fact the child’s risk of developing the disease went up 38 percent. Most interestingly is that the link persisted even when researchers controlled for factors like a family history of mental illness.

“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,” explained Alan Brown, M.D., MPH, senior author and Mailman School professor of epidemiology and professor of clinical psychiatry at CUMC, in a news release.

RISKS of smoking during pregnancy

We already know that smoking during pregnancy can result in low birth weight, brain development, and short- and long-term cognition, higher risk of SIDS, decreased lung function, higher risk of asthma and also increased risk of cleft lip and cleft palate.

Some of the many damaging effects of cigarette smoke on the fetus include: via Better Health
•reduced oxygen supply due to carbon monoxide and nicotine
•retarded growth and development
•increased risk of cleft lip and cleft palate
•decreased fetal movements in the womb for at least an hour after smoking one cigarette
•impaired development and working of the placenta
•changes in the baby’s brain and lungs.

Pregnancy complications from smoking

Some of the pregnancy complications more commonly experienced by women who smoke include:
•ectopic pregnancy – this is pregnancy outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube
•fetal death – death of the baby in the uterus (stillbirth)
•spontaneous abortion – known as miscarriage
•problems with the placenta, including early detachment from the uterine wall and blocking the cervical opening (placenta previa)
•premature rupture of the membranes
•premature labour.

Some of the problems caused by smoking during pregnancy include:
•increased risk of premature birth
•increased risk of miscarriage and infant death
•lower birth weight – on average, about 150 to 200 grams less than normal
•up to three times the risk SIDS.

Some of the problems caused by smoking while breastfeeding include:
•Some of the chemicals in cigarettes can pass from the mother to the baby through breastmilk.
•Smoking can reduce milk production.
•Women who smoke are less likely to breastfeed and are more likely to wean their child earlier than mothers who do not smoke.

Pregnancy and quitting smoking
Ideally, a pregnant woman should stop smoking. In reality, up to half of females quit when pregnancy is planned or confirmed. If you need help to quit, see your health professional for information and advice or call Quitline.

If you are finding it tough to stop smoking, don’t despair. There is evidence to suggest that stopping smoking by the fourth month of pregnancy can reduce some of the risks, such as low birth weight and premature birth.

Where to get help
•Your doctor
•Quitline Tel. 13 7848 (13 QUIT)

Share your comments below.

Image via Shutterstock

  • Concerning !
    Think we have to be careful not to judge people who aren’t able to battle addictions as they can be so hard to battle.


  • 38% risk increase of a mental illness is massive. Thanks for such an informative article


  • Do we really need anymore evidence that smoking is bad?


  • I’ve never really understood why people take it up in the first place.


  • Interesting… I wonder if it’s a certain chemical or chemical in the brain that becomes imbalanced due to the smoking during pregnancy, and could it be helped later in life? Hopefully!


  • Interesting that it’s linked to schizophrenia


  • amazing how they come up with these. cannabis is linked though so makes sense


  • We know it’s not good – just make it illegal already!! And drinking whilst pregnant


  • Wow, I now the risks smirking has but never thought it could increase mental illness by up to 38%.


  • Some newborns actually suffer from withdrawal symptoms too. A few were from the dad’s heavy smoking around the pregnant laides I found this out from a lady who worked at the Childrens Hospital. At one point there was a ward full of babies suffering from withdrawal symptoms of tobacco…long before drugs becase prevalent. I know one lady who refused to have a baby until her husband gave up smoking. They now have two healthy children.


  • I can’t believe there are still women nowadays smoking while pregnant. Everybody should know the effects by now!


  • I really think there’s enough evidence already to show smoking is really really bad for you and especially bad for a baby when you’re pregnant. If the evidence already available isn’t enough to stop people doing it, then simply some people will never be stopped


  • You would not smoke while pregnant,why harm your unborn child!


  • I can’t believe anyone would choose to smoke during pregnancy given what we know. I know addiction can be hard to kick but hopefully women will do it for their unborn babies.


  • There is so much evidence to show that smoking will harm mother and especially baby. I hope people can beat this addiction for everyone’s sake.


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