Use of Painkillers during Pregnancy tied to 500% greater Risk of Schizophrenia in Children

It was revealed in a study published in November 2004, in the British Journal of Psychiatry, that prenatal exposure to painkillers (the medical term is "analgesics" - such as Aspirin) is linked to as much as a 500% greater probability of the children developing schizophrenia in later life.

A recent news report also noted that:

To investigate the theory that prenatal exposure to analgesics might affect fetal neurodevelopment, leading to increased risk of schizophrenia in adulthood, the Copenhagen University team matched data from the Copenhagen Perinatal Cohort with information from the Danish Psychiatric Central Register.

Among a subset of 7999 individuals, 116 cases of schizophrenia were identified. Prenatal exposure to analgesics in the second trimester was associated with a nearly five-fold (almost 500% ) increased risk of schizophrenia.

The association remained statistically significant after factoring a parental history of schizophrenia and other risk factors.

Holger Srensen and colleagues said that development of the cortical subplate reaches its peak in the second trimester, so the fetal brain might be particularly sensitive to a range of environmental influences in the womb at that time.

In their study they conclude that "Independent of a wide range of possible confounders, a significant association between second-trimester exposure to analgesics and increased risk of schizophrenia was observed."

SOURCE: British Journal of Psychiatry, November 2004.

One possible explanation for this association aside from aspirin directly being the precipitating cause is the fact that women are more likely to take aspirin when they have caught the flu or another sort of virus. Flu exposure during pregnancy has also been shown to increase the risk for schizophrenia. The extent to which these two factors may be interrelated remains unclear, and more research is needed.

Action: To reduce the risk of children developing schizophrenia, mothers (especially couples who have any history of mental illness in the family) may want to make extra efforts to avoid painkiller medications during pregnancy. In fact, doctors generally recommend that pregnant women avoid all over-the-counter medications - unless specifically recommended by a doctor who knows that the person is pregnant.

Supporting Research (a sample):




   Copyright 1996-2004. All Rights Reserved.