Adverse effects of maternal substance use during pregnancy on fetal development may increase risk of psychopathology.
To examine whether maternal use of tobacco, cannabis or alcohol during pregnancy increases risk of offspring psychotic symptoms.
A longitudinal study of 6356 adolescents, age 12, who completed a semi-structured interview for psychotic symptoms in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) birth cohort.
Frequency of maternal tobacco use during pregnancy was associated with increased risk of suspected or definite psychotic symptoms (adjusted odds ratio 1.20, 95% CI 1.05–1.37, P = 0.007). Maternal alcohol use showed a non-linear association with psychotic symptoms, with this effect almost exclusively in the offspring of women drinking >21 units weekly. Maternal cannabis use was not associated with psychotic symptoms. Results for paternal smoking during pregnancy and maternal smoking post-pregnancy lend some support for a causal effect of tobacco exposure in utero on development of psychotic experiences.
These findings indicate that risk factors for development of non-clinical psychotic experiences may operate during early development. Future studies of how in utero exposure to tobacco affects cerebral development and function may lead to increased understanding of the pathogenesis of psychotic phenomena.
- © 2009 Royal College of Psychiatrists
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