Another reason for mamas-to-be to kick that nasty nicotine habit.
Researchers gathered data on nearly 1,000 cases of schizophrenia and matched their subjects' birth and health records with those of non-affected offspring born in Finland from 1983-1998. Smoking habits of the moms were then assessed by looking at levels of a nicotine marker (called cotinine) in the blood, via tests carried out during the first and early second trimesters of pregnancy.
The findings showed that women who smoked while expecting (and who therefore had a higher cotinine level in their blood) had an increased risk of giving birth to a child who later developed schizophrenia. And among women who were heavy smokers, that risk increased by 38 percent.
"To our knowledge, this is the first biomarker-based study to show a relationship between fetal nicotine exposure and schizophrenia," said senior researcher Alan Brown, a professor at the University of Columbia. "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."
He added that future studies should examine maternal cotinine in relation to autism, bipolar disorder and other psychiatric disorders.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, while previous research has shown that smoking while pregnant can increase the risk of miscarriage, lead to preterm labor and low birth weight, and increase the risk of SIDS and birth defects, 12 to 20 percent of pregnant women still smoke.
If you are currently pregnant and trying to quit smoking, click here for information on how to safely go about it.