November 06, 2007

Psychiatric Hospitalization and an Increased Risk for SIDS

A new study out of the UK has found that infants with parents who have been hospitalized for psychiatric or drug abuse disorders are more likely to die from SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome than are other infants. SIDS is a particularly frightening syndrome where infants who seem healthy suddenly die. This usually occurs when infants are quite young (between 2 and 4 months) and is brought on by a cessation in breathing for unknown reasons.

Researchers at the University of Manchester, England conducted the study focused around SIDS by collecting data on "single infant births, infant mortality, and adult psychiatric hospitalizations from national registries in Denmark. The researchers identified all cases of SIDS that occurred between 1973 and 1998."

The researchers discovered that in families where either parent had a "history of psychiatric hospitalization, the risk of SIDS was "close to double that of the rest of the population" (as compared to infants whose parents had not been hospitalized for a psychiatric disorder). Further, if both parents had a history of psychiatric hospitalization, the risk of SIDS (for the infants of these parents) was seven times greater than for the rest of the infant population.

For specific disorders, the greatest risk was associated with inpatient treatment for substance abuse. The risk was especially high if mothers were hospitalized, which increased the risk by 5-fold. For mood disorders, such as depression, the risk was increased by about 2-fold for hospitalization of the mother or father. Contrary to previous reports, schizophrenia-like disorders did not increase the risk of SIDS more than other psychiatric disorders.

The researchers concluded that adults who suffer from psychiatric illness and who soon plan to have children should inform their psychiatrists right away so as to reduce risk factors for SIDS. In addition, after the birth of the infant, parents should inform the infant's pediatrician of parental mental illness. This story brings up the importance of timely diagnosis and treatment because these reduce the chances of a psychiatric breakdown and a possible resulting hospitalization.

King-Hele, SA, Abel KM, Webb RT, Mortensen PB, Appleby L and Pickles AR(2007). Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome With Parental Mental Illness, Arch Gen Psychiatry, 64(11):1323-1330.

More About Sudden Infant Death Syndrome


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