November 28, 2006

Prenatal Doctor's Visit may be Three Months Too Late

While not specifically related to schizophrenia, the NY Times today had a valuable article on for women planning to have children to start their prenatal planning well in advance of getting pregnant, to maximize the probability of the health of the child. The story notes:

For years, women have had it drummed into them that prenatal care is the key to having a healthy baby, and that they should see a doctor as soon as they know they are pregnant. But by then, it may already be too late. Public health officials are now encouraging women to make sure they are in optimal health well in advance of a pregnancy to reduce the risk of preventable birth defects and complications. They have recast the message to emphasize not only prenatal care, as they did in the past, but also what they are calling “preconception care.”

The problem, doctors say, is that by the first prenatal visit, a woman is usually 10 to 12 weeks pregnant. “If a birth defect is going to happen, it’s already happened,” said Dr. Peter S. Bernstein, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York who helped write new government guidelines on preconception care.

For many women, Dr. Bernstein said, “The most important doctor’s visit may be the one that takes place before a pregnancy is conceived.”

This advice is consistent with a significant amount of news we've been seeing during the past two years. In fact in a recent discussion with schizophrenia researchers at University of California, San Francisco we heard that there is increasingy research supporting the link between obesity in a pregnant mother and increased risk for schizophrenia in the child.

Earlier this week we also saw how alcohol during pregnancy seems to increase the stress response of the child (and stress during pregnancy and childhood has a well-documented link to increased risk of schizophrenia).

The message to mothers to be is to start planning pregnancies early - get in good physical shape, eat healthy organic fruits and vegetables, take your pregnancy vitamin formulas (starting 3 months prior to pregnancy), and keep stress moderated. Learn all you can about pregnancy health and personal health in the months prior to pregnancy - because if you wait until the time you're pregnant, its too late.

Read the Full NY Times Story: That Prenatal Visit May Be Months Too Late (Free Registration Required).

More Information: Pregnancy Risk Factors linked to Schizophrenia

Center for Disease Control and Prevention - Pregnancy-planning Education Program


They should be teaching these types of things to people in high school during sex ed.

But really, people should be should be eating healthy, exercising, and developing low stress lifestyles all of the time, not just when they plan to become pregnant. Developing an entire lifestyle around what is best for yourself will inherently affect the child. I feel it is more of a cultural problem then anything.

Posted by: Cory Schulz at November 29, 2006 12:46 AM

I was astonished to find that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome can occur before the mother even has an inkling that she may be pregnant. The alcohol can even get INSIDE the blastula stage - the stage where the embryo is just a BALL of cells!

There are signs saying not to drink if pregnant, but it turns out that if there is even a chance of becoming pregnant, women should not drink.

The same goes for smoking cigarettes.

I am angry that we teach so many useless things in school, but the truly important things that can help people be good responsible citizens, friends, neighbors, and parents - AND can truly help throughout a person's life, are neglected.

I taught a health class for just girls at a private school. We could never have done a class like that at a public school, and that is a shame. We explored the role of omega-3 fatty acids, and investigated the history of breast-feeding and formula feeding, including interviewing mothers and grandmothers. I let them find out that although breast-feeding is usually better for the baby & mother, that there are sometimes very valid medical reasons not to. The girls learned about fetal and baby brain development. They also learned about obesity, and BMI, and calories and metabolic factors with knowledge that SOME of what they are learning is not for NOW while they are still growing, but they will need after their bodies mature - so that they at least will be aware and know how to obtain the information. They learned about nutrition and exercise, and we put it into practice.

There is no way we could have had such a class if it had been mixed sexes (co-ed)... and I know it is not being taught in public schools.

Posted by: Naomi at November 29, 2006 08:57 AM

Unfortunately the ability to adopt a healthy lifestyle can be
seriously compromised by the environmental stressors you experience in childhood and also the passing on of those faulty genes that made your parent or parents behave in the negative way they did to you.

I do not know whether my mother drank when she was pregnant with me.
I do know that when she was in
hospital after giving birth to me in the Belgium Congo that she would have gin disguised with O.J so the nuns wouldn't notice.

I wonder what kind of effect
alcohol consumption and breast feeding has on the infant.

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