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Mothers with any form of serious mental illness are more likely to have children who are stillborn or who die within the first month.

Maternal psychiatric illness and newborn deaths

Mothers with any form of serious mental illness are more likely to have children who are stillborn or who die within the first month. But the links between the causes of stillbirth and newborn death depend on the type of mental illness of the mother. Many perinatal deaths have been found in babies of women with psychiatric inpatient histories across a range of psychiatric illnesses, including schizophrenia and related disorders, bipolar and other affective disorders, and substance-abuse disorders.


Link between maternal mental health and newborn deaths

Researchers at the centre for women’s mental health at The University of Manchester (2008) revealed that women with a history of serious mental illness are much more likely to have babies that are stillborn or die within the first month of life. The results of the study put forth that the risk of stillbirth for women with schizophrenia was twice as high as healthy mothers, while women with affective disorders were also 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 much greater risk of stillborn and newborn deaths. The risk of stillbirth due to complications during delivery among women with drug and alcohol problems was more than double that of healthy women.

Sudden infant death syndrome and parental mental illness

Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the most common cause of post neonatal death in developed countries. A SIDS case is recorded when a sudden unexpected death in infancy occurs but a thorough postmortem examination and scene-of-death inquiry are unable to determine a specific cause of death. Many risk factors for SIDS have been identified, one of which is maternal schizophrenia.

A Danish population-based study supported by Danish Medical Research Council (2001) reported a 5-fold higher risk in infants whose mothers have schizophrenia. Other studies have found an increased risk of SIDS with postnatal depression. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, researchers put forth that depression during pregnancy, and after birth, is associated with SIDS, particularly if the mother is depressed in the year before delivery. Factors mediating the association between maternal depression and SIDS need further investigation.

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